A NORTH SEA DIARY 1914-1918
This book was originally published under the title of
" A NAVAL LIEUTENANT "
A NORTH SEA
COMMANDER STEPHEN KING-HALL
NEWNES : LONDON
Made and Printed in Great Britain by
Hazell, Watson <& Viney Ltd. London and Aylesbury
IN placing on record some of my impressions of the
Naval War, together with some accounts of such action
as I happened to witness, I have been actuated by
several desires and guided by one rule.
I have desired that some small record should exist of
the part played by H.M.S. Southampton in the great
war. This little ship can claim an honour denied to
nearly every other ship in the Grand Fleet. Namely,
that on all the four principal occasions when consider-
able German forces were encountered in the North Sea,
her guns were in action. Those days were the 28th
August, 1914, the i6th December, 1914, the 24th Janu-
ary, 1915, and the i6th May, 1916. As far as I know,
no other ship, with the exception of H.M.S. Birmingham,
can claim a share in this record, as, though the same
squadrons, e.g. the battle-cruiser squadrons, were
present on all dates, yet ships that were in action on one
day were away refitting on another day. So much for
My second reason for writing this book was that it
seemed to me that a personal record of the North Sea
war as applied to the Grand Fleet was desirable.
Much of our knowledge of the details of the great
naval wars of the Napoleonic days has come from
letters, diaries, and personal accounts published at the
time in the Naval Chronicles, and the historian of the
future will seek for similar sources of information. An
impersonal and invaluable account of our doings has
been written by the highest possible authority, Lord
Jellicoe himself. Of the doings of the company officer
on the western front, innumerable books have been
written, and I should estimate that the Army could
muster a platoon of able writers who have written of its
actions and life at the front. We in the sister service
are astern of station in this matter, both in ability and
in numbers, and no one realizes the shortcomings of this
volume from a literary point of view better than its
author ; but, and here I come to my guiding rule, this
book is, to the best of my ability, a true account of the
doings of one of His Majesty's two thousand naval
lieutenants, and as such claims justification. It is from
this point of view that I hope that it will interest all
those who have had relatives and friends in the Fleet
and particularly the light cruiser squadrons of the
Grand Fleet. What we were doing in the Southampton,
other naval officers were doing in the Nottingham,
Birmingham, Lowestoft, Dublin, Liverpool, Falmouth,
Chatham, Sydney, Melbourne, Galatea, Phaeton, etc., to
mention a few of the cheery crowd of light cruisers with
whom we flogged the North Sea from the South Dogger
Light to the latitude of Iceland, and from the coast of
Scotland to the coast of Norway.
Some remarks on the battle of Jutland, that many-
times-fought contest, will be found in the book. I
have endeavoured to distinguish carefully between what
I saw and what I have heard from others. One of the
most mysterious things about the action is the well-
known fact that the estimated positions of the Battle
Fleet and the Battle-cruiser Fleet differed by 12 miles.
The disarrangement this must have caused in the plans
of Lord Jellicoe and his staff can only be compared to
the case of a man who tries to cross a road in front of
a car which he estimates would hit him in ten seconds
if he was not across in time, and he then finds himself
about to be hit in five. He has got to alter his plans
and alter them quickly. Lord Jellicoe, whose book
appeared after this book was completed, states that
there could be no doubt as to the accuracy of positions
as plotted in the Iron Duke, as she had come straight
from Scapa Flow, whereas the Battle-cruiser Fleet had
been in action for two hours and frequently altering
course. At the same time, whilst admitting the force
of the above explanation, it has always seemed to me
that 12 miles' divergence of opinion was so large that
other causes may have contributed to the difference.
The Battle-cruiser Fleet had steered an easterly course
from Rosyth, and up till 3.30 p.m. there was no reason
why our positions should not have been correct. Yet
at 5.30 they were 12 miles in error on the Iron Duke.
I have often wondered whether, on our easterly course
throughout the night, we were being affected by a
\- or J-knot southerly set which was not running
farther to the north-east where the Battle Fleet was
at sea. It is at all events curious that, as far as my
knowledge goes, the navigators of the Battle-cruiser
Fleet agreed roughly on their positions, and the
navigators of the Battle Fleet agreed more or less col-
lectively on their own. Perhaps one day a furious con-
flict of Pilots at the Navigation School will delight the lay
minds in the Fleet who have wondered on this matter.
As regards the track chart of the general movements
of H.M.S. Southampton, it has been necessary to omit
all minor alterations of courses, and her movements for
the first eighteen months only are shown, as further
tracks would hopelessly overcrowd the chart. It will
be noticed that a considerable number of tracks run off
the chart to the northward. Continued to scale, some
of these tracks would necessitate a prolongation of the
chart to the Arctic Circle.
In this introduction I am getting what is known in
the Submarine Service as " windy," so I will conclude
with the hope that the people of this country will
always remember that, though peace is very good,
security is still better, and that the Royal Navy is as
sound an insurance policy for the Empire as any on
INTRODUCTION ..... 9
I. THE FIRST LIFE 17
II. SCAPA FLOW 31
III. THE BEGINNING 39
IV. THE HELIGOLAND BIGHT ACTION . . 49
V. THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW . . 60
VI. SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK. . 73
VII. THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR . . 94
VIII. MORE ROUTINE OF WAR . . '. 107
IX. HARBOUR LIFE ..... 121
X. THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND . . . 127
XI. NIGHT ACTION 147
XII. SOME REFLECTIONS ON JUTLAND . . 162
XIII. CARRYING ON ..... l68
XIV. H.M.S. RAMILLIES .... 183
XV. H.M.S. VERNON 193
XVI. SUBMARINES ..... 199
XVII. H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT
SHIP ...... 2IO
XVIII. THE END 225
XIX. THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER . . . 229
XX. THE HORRORS OF PEACE . . . 248
LIST OF PLANS
I. APPROXIMATE TRACK OF H.M.S. SOUTHAMP-
TON, NEGLECTING VARIOUS TWISTS AND
ZIG-ZAGS ...... 50
II. SKETCH OF H.M.S. SOUTHAMPTON'S MOVE-
MENTS ON DOGGER BANK, l6TH DECEMBER,
1914 ....... 78
III. GENERAL SITUATION FROM OPENING FIRE OF
LION TO ARRIVAL OF GERMAN BATTLE
FLEET, AND GENERAL TURN TO THE NORTH-
WARD . . . . . . . 132
IV APPROXIMATE SITUATION WHILST MEETING
BATTLE FLEET AND DURING DEPLOYMENT 138
V. APPROXIMATE GROUPING OF SHIPS DURING
PERIOD BATTLE FLEETS WERE IN ACTION 143
VI. HUN FLEET CROSSES STERN OF BRITISH FLEET 148
A NORTH SEA DIARY
THE FIRST LIFE
LOOKING back across four years and one hundred
days of war, the events that preceded this great
clash seem to belong to another age.
It seems to me as if I have had two lives already the
first up to 1914, the second from 1914 to 1918 and
now I feel that a third life is beginning.
This curious sensation of having already lived two
lives makes me feel rather old ; such years as I have
lived seem to have been long ones.
It is like the old dodge of making seven days' leave
seem like ten by staying in three different places, only
the ruse is spread over years.
My first life is of little interest to anyone. I was first
educated abroad, and in due course followed the family
tradition by entering Osborne ; from whence, the col-
lege at Dartmouth, the training cruiser, a year in the
Neptune with Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, eighteen
months on the Cape of Good Hope Station, and
another year in the Neptune, in which ship Admiral Sir
George Callaghan was then flying his flag, followed in
A hectic ten days at the Navigation School, Ports-
mouth, in which period I wrestled, together with eighty
others, with an endless succession of examination papers,
l8 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
and I emerged a confirmed sub-lieutenant in His
My most lasting recollection of these examinations
was that the room was so cold that I wore a greatcoat,
in the pockets of which garment I secreted ginger-beer
bottles full of hot water, which I ostentatiously dis-
played at regular intervals as a silent protest against the
lack of radiators.
Some hunting in Ireland, and I joined H.M.S.
Southampton in February 1914.
She was lying at Portsmouth, and flew the broad
pennant of a Commodore with whose family my own
has been in close association in the Service for many
The Southampton, which in my eyes will always be
the ship of ships in the Navy and in whose honour
I write this book, was nearly brand-new, and then
represented the latest idea in light cruisers, being in a
different category from the Arethusa class, which
were smaller, slightly faster, but with less armament.
The Southampton mounts eight 6-inch guns and two
submerged tubes for 2i-inch torpedoes. She has three
inches of armour, and can maintain a speed of 25-5
knots for four hours, and she is good for 23 in a very
When I joined her at the beginning of 1914, my first
life was drawing to a close, little though I realized
In my second life I was destined to play a small and
humble part in the great drama, and it is because it
seems to me that the records of the little parts, when
fitted together, may prove of interest to the present
generation and of some slight value to the future genera-
tions of historians, that I have decided to place on
paper some of my experiences during the war.
I have always kept a diary, and some of my material
comes from that ; but some things could not with
THE FIRST LIFE IQ
propriety be placed on paper whilst the war lasted, and
in such cases I have to trust to an indifferent memory.
Should any gross errors meet the eye of any of my
shipmates who may chance to borrow this book, I hope
they will write to me.
We were working up for gunnery practices and play-
ing golf at Oban in April when the news came that
the First Light Cruiser Squadron, which consisted of
the Southampton, Birmingham, and Nottingham, would
proceed to Kiel Bay in June, accompanied by a squad-
ron of four battleships under Sir George Warrender
flying his flag in the King George V.
We went to Portland to prepare for the trip, and
everyone hastily surveyed their uniforms, and in
some cases reluctantly purchased full dress and ball
dress, as an order was issued
" That whilst in German waters, uniform would be
worn ashore ; for purposes of sport, flannels would be
permitted, and it was hoped officers would see that the
latter were of an immaculate nature."
This last admonition caused great amusement in the
In a dense fog we sailed for Kiel on the 2ist June,
and had a harmless and entertaining bumping match
with a fishing smack off the Jutland coast.
That afternoon we rehearsed cheering ship for the
Rounding the Skaw, we made the passage of the Belt,
and arrived at the northern limit of Kiel Bay at dusk
on the 23rd.
I was on watch when we anchored. The navigator
now a colonel in the R.A.F. turned to me and said :
" Do you believe in omens ? " and pointed to the
I looked up and saw a very curiously shaped cloud,
which must have been a mile long and was shaped
exactly like a snake, head erect and about to strike.
20 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
I said, "It's exactly like a huge snake."
He replied : " Yes ; and the head is raised towards
At that moment the setting sun tinged the cloud a
" Blood ! " said the pilot solemnly.
We were both silent for a moment, and then, feeling
rather foolish, we began to talk about something else.
Next morning, German naval officers came on board
to pilot us into Kiel.
In addition to the German navigators we had an
A.D.C. appointed to the ship, to attend on the Com-
modore during our stay. His name was Kearhan,
and he was a great big Prussian with the rigidity of a
He could not understand our principle that, in the
mess, officers do not behave as if they were on the
quarter-deck, and that a commander can have a rough
and tumble with two lieutenants without losing caste.
However, we educated him considerably in this
respect during our visit to Kiel, and also inculcated
into him a taste for cocktails.
We went to buoys in Kiel harbour, and it was
reported that the Germans were very favourably
impressed by the perfect manner in which the British
ships tied up without assistance.
As to our appearance, needless to say, we were
" ormelu." 1
In our own case, the Southampton's quarter-deck was
a dream of dark-blue enamel, the stanchions of our
awning were encased in pipe-clayed canvas, the decks
were snowy white, having been planed by hand by ten
carpenters to remove all stains.
Our stay at Kiel was one ceaseless round of official
visits, banquets, dances, and other amusements.
1 " Ormelu " means " tiddly," which means tris chic in a naval
THE FIRST LIFE 21
We had almost to live in our full dress, which costume
was certainly not designed for modern life.
Our " chummy ships " were the Rostock, a light
cruiser, and a battleship of the Pommern class.
We dined all the officers of the latter ship one night,
and her commander made a speech in which he said :
" We try and mould ourselves on the traditions of your
Navy, and when I see in the papers that the possibility
of war between our two nations must be considered, I
read it with horror ; to us such a war would be a civil
Kiel itself was full of German society, and many well-
known figures in the yachting world were there to
honour the Kiel regatta week.
Lord Brassey, in his wonderful old yacht, the Sun-
beam, was anchored close to us.
It was a few days after our arrival the Kaiser came to
Kiel in his yacht, the Hohenzollern.
He came through the Kiel Canal, and the bows of his
yacht broke the silk ribbons across the entrance to the
new locks, which were formally declared open. The
completion of these locks and the widening of the bends
in the canal permitted the largest dreadnoughts to pass
into the North Sea from Kiel, instead of their being
obliged to go round the Skaw at the northern end of
When the Hohenzollern emerged into the harbour
from the Kiel end of the canal, she proceeded through
the lines of the two fleets at the highly improper speed,
for a harbour, of about 16 knots.
As she passed each ship the assembled ships' com-
panies of both nations mechanically cheered.
We were cheering a figure standing alone in admiral's
uniform on a stage built up over the top of the upper
bridge of the Hohenzollern.
This man in admiral's uniform, standing at the salute,
was William Hohenzollern, German Emperor by
22 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
arrangement with his God, and one of the greatest
poseurs of the age.
In the wake of the Hohenzollern thousands of his
subjects in every type of craft, from racing-eights to
large pleasure-steamers, endeavoured to keep up with
One boat was swamped and I believe a few ultra-
loyal Germans drowned before the Hohenzollern came to
an anchor and was at once surrounded by police-boats
to keep the populace at their distance.
The usual programme of a day at Kiel was as follows :
In the morning one watched the yacht-racing out-
side. I used to do this from Admiral von Miiller's
motor-boat ; von Miiller had been Naval Chief of the
Kaiser's Privy Cabinet for many years.
In the evening there were always a dinner and a ball
ashore both very formal functions, and at I a.m. those
who did not wish to go to bed, of which I was invariably
one, changed into the blessed comfort of a dinner-jacket
and repaired to one of the two night clubs which
were patronized by the German Navy. At these cafes
chantants one could consume vast quantities of caviare
and bola, a sort of champagne-cup.
I used to be a source of worry to the genial manager
of " La Mascotte," as, being a teetotaller, I insisted on
At these cheerful places one danced with pretty ladies
of Russian and Austrian nationality until about 6 a.m.,
when one returned to the ship in a dilapidated condition
and prepared for the next official function.
I remember that one morning the flag-lieutenant and
myself arrived alongside at 7.15 a.m., just as the
Commodore came on deck for a stroll before breakfast.
Explanations were futile, but we were cross-examined
afterwards, and it was rumoured in the ward-room that
the Commodore was contemplating an incognito visit
to "La Mascotte " in order to satisfy himself of the
THE FIRST LIFE 23
innocence of his junior officers' amusements. To our
great regret we never met him there.
As soon as we arrived at any of these places we
always had a great reception in honour of the British
Navy. They would hardly have been so effusive had
they been able to foresee the effect that self -same Navy
was about to produce on their food supplies in the near
future. Nor would the assistant paymaster and myself
have sung an English song from the stage, in response
to clamorous demands for a " turn."
However, it is lucky that we could not foresee the
future, for it was very amusing at Kiel in those closing
weeks of my first life.
I became fairly well acquainted with three German
officers. One was a submarine officer, who I believe
still survives. The second was the first-lieutenant of
the Rostock, who used to seek my company with em-
barrassing ardour, for he was apparently the only
officer teetotaller in the German Navy and felt that we
ought to be kindred spirits. We were not, for he was a
gloomy man with depressing views as to the imminence
of the Second Coming. The third was a sub-lieutenant
in the battleship Kaiser, who did not admire me par-
ticularly as far as I know, but he quite openly admired
my English evening clothes, and expressed his inten-
tion of coming to England with the express purpose of
purchasing a " smoking," by which he meant a dinner-
Some sports for the sailors were held one afternoon.
The British ships were defeated at nearly everything.
We discovered afterwards that preliminary contests to
select teams had been held at Kiel, and these teams
represented the picked athletes from thirty thousand
men ! Our representatives were, of course, merely the
best men in each ship.
One night the German submarine depot gave a dance,
which they explained was a very special private dance,
24 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
in that we should all be in mess undress, and the
Kaiser's severe displeasure was going to be risked as we
were to dance rag-time, and, most marvellous of all, we
were to be allowed to sit out in the rose-garden.
The dance was a success, the gnddige Frdulein enjoy-
ing the above novelties to the full.
Some of the German ladies, in French clothes, were
very attractive but they were dreadful when attired
in products from the Fatherland.
One of the former was a countess from Mayence,
whom we were told was nicknamed " Countess Ice-
berg." She was a very handsome lady, and I under-
stood at the time that the British Navy did not find her
so extraordinarily frigid.
On the morning of the 28th June the Meteor, with the
Kaiser on board, passed close to us on her way out to
race. Wilham was with a large party aft, and seemed
in the best of spirits.
A few hours later a fatal pistol-shot was fired in
Sarajevo, and the overture to the colossal drama of the
world war began.
I was at an afternoon dance in one of the Pommern
class when the news came through that the Archduke
had been assassinated.
Dancing was stopped, and we prepared to return to
In the interval, whilst waiting for our boats, I asked a
German lady what this assassination meant.
She told me that in her opinion it was a black day for
Germany, as the Archduke, who had been promised by
William the Second the recognition of his morganatic
wife as Empress, represented German influence in the
She said : " All the work of fifteen years is gone."
We got back to our ships at 5 p.m., and shortly
afterwards the despatch-boat Sleipner came into har-
bour and passed across our stern.
THE FIRST LIFE 25
She had been out to fetch the Kaiser from his sailing-
William was seated alone right aft, and presented the
most extraordinary contrast to his appearance in the
morning we all commented on it ; his staff were
grouped together watching him from a distance, but he
sat silent and alone, staring straight in front of him, one
hand supporting his chin. It will always be a matter
of curiosity to me to know how much he knew, sus-
pected, or had planned at that moment. That his
thoughts were portentous I am absolutely convinced.
That evening he left for Berlin.
Our visit was shortened after this event, and the
Germans invited the light cruisers to use the Kiel Canal
an offer which we accepted, as it saved us several
We passed through in the course of a day, and I
noticed that we were photographed from above as we
passed under each of the three or four suspension
bridges which span the canal. Incidentally, Zeppelins
were continually hovering over us at Kiel, for no obvious
purpose except to take photographs.
The evening of the day on which we passed through
the canal we cleared the mouth of the Elbe, and pick-
ing our way clear of the sandbanks which are so well
described in the Riddle of the Sands, we passed Heligo-
land at sunset.
The island, seen from a distance of 10 miles, looked
like a cloud resting on the water.
We exchanged salutes with the battleship Westfalen,
which was carrying out exercises in waters which were
soon to be the haunt of British submarines from
We came to Portsmouth, and in July the peace-time
Navy, which had not had a real war for over one hun-
dred years, and in which men had entered as cadets and
retired as admirals without having the opportunity of
26 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
seeing a shot fired in anger, sang its swan-song in one
last review at Spithead in the presence of His Majesty
For the last time for many weary months, the ships
were crowded with ladies, dinner parties were held on
board, and the Fleet was a blaze of light.
The weightiest matter discussed in the mess was what
would happen if anyone was silly enough to tell us to
go and bombard Belfast in the case of Ulster springing
The Fleet left Spithead and steamed past the royal
yacht, carried out exercises for two days, which, as was
subsequently noted, bore little resemblance to war, and
then we were dispersed to various ports to give summer
leave and to demobilize the reservists who had been
We went, together with the Battle Fleet, to Portland.
On Sunday, the 26th July, a friend of mine named
S , then serving in the Devonshire, and myself
walked out to the Springhead Hotel to have a lobster
tea and to discuss our arrangements for the forthcoming
Our plan was to collect some dollars and proceed in
company to Ostend, there to support ourselves on the
gaming-tables or in such other manner as seemed most
As we were walking back to Weymouth, we saw that
two battleships, the Lord Nelson and the Agamemnon,
were coming into the bay.
This struck us as curious, as we knew that they had
sailed that morning for Portsmouth to give leave.
On arriving at the landing-stage, we heard that they
had been recalled, and on buying a local rag we dis-
covered vague references to trouble in the Balkans.
It will be remembered by those who have reached the
mature age of twenty-five that this was a very common
state of affairs way back in the 19105 and 133, and
THE FIRST LIFE 27
S and myself decided that Ostend would yet see us.
Alas ! some undistinguished Uhlans were due to get
Next day the plot thickened, demobilization was
stopped, and a conference between the First Lord and
some admirals was postponed.
The newspaper headline grew a little larger, and we
were ordered to coal with all despatch. Four hundred
tons of it were thrown down on to our upper deck by
the automatic coal-shutes, and we were left to get it
into the bunkers as best we could.
That evening at 7 p.m. we received orders to be
prepared to sail at 7 a.m. the next morning.
Officers and men had to be recalled from shore, and
notices ordering ships' companies to repair on board
were thrown on the screen at the cinema houses.
There were some affecting scenes on Weymouth Pier,
as the ladies ashore appeared to be convinced that we
were sailing for Trafalgar II next morning.
This state of affairs communicated itself to the ship,
and when it was piped round the mess-decks that
" the last mail would leave the ship at 9 p.m." we all
felt duly solemn, and only one hardy soul in the ward-
room stated that he wrote only once a week, and
Sunday was his day, and nothing would make him
Our late gunnery lieutenant, B. M , came on
board at 8 p.m. He had been on sick leave, and had
come down from London to collect some gear of his
which he had left in the ship, thinking he would return
to us ; to his disgust, he had been appointed to a ship
which was mobilizing at Portsmouth.
He told us great stories of the activity at the
His great desire was to get a singularly fine arm-chair
out of the ship, but he could not do so in the few hours
at his disposal, and he was pushed ashore at 10 p.m.,
28 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
staggering under the weight of a collection of diaries,
last wills and testaments, family documents, silver,
and other personal valuables.
He departed to a chorus of :
" Don't forget, old B , my box goes to the bank
" And give that tin case of mine to my missus."
" And don't forget to take that cup of mine to
" And . . . etc. etc."
In return for these kindnesses we retained his chair in
the smoking-room for upwards of one year, notwith-
standing his repeated applications for it.
At 7 a.m. on the 28th July we weighed and proceeded
with the Fleet.
For the first hour we steamed in a westerly direction,
then, when out of sight of land, we altered course 16
points and stood up channel for the Straits of Dover.
This ruse, if it was intended as such, must have been
quite useless, as for some hours we steamed along in
company with a large German liner, which doubtless
reported us by wireless.
During the forenoon we received the " strained rela-
tions " signal. This entailed preparing the ship for
war, fuzing the lyddite shell, and placing war-heads on
I saw a very pathetic sight in the course of the fore-
noon, which was the spectacle of our commander and
a lieutenant reluctantly going round the quarter-deck,
armed with two knives with which they were solemnly
stripping down the canvas pipe-clayed coverings which
conspicuously concealed the crude iron of the berthing-
I can remember at the same time the horror on
P.O. Eve's face when the commander announced that
in future the brass top of the after-capstan would not
THE FIRST LIFE 2Q
It was remarked by the older officers that we had
never gone as far as this in the previous war scares,
such as the Agadir episode.
During the afternoon a large French battleship of
La Republique class dashed past us at 20 knots, cleared
for action and steaming for Brest.
At dusk we went to night defence stations, and
shortly afterwards passed through the Straits of Dover.
The searchlights of both Dover and the French defences
were very busy sweeping up and down.
Once through the Straits we increased speed and
steered N.N.E., the cruisers being spread ahead as
From the purely military point of view, Germany
never had a better chance of attacking us than on the
night of the 28th-29th.
We had not got a great number of destroyers with us,
and a surprise night attack conducted by the massed
German flotillas might have been a serious thing from
our point of view.
It probably did not take place for two reasons.
Firstly, the Germans were quite certain they could keep
us out of the war. And secondly, strange to say, the
despised Englishman had got his Fleet en route to its
war stations sooner than the super-efficient German.
Considerable speculation existed in the Fleet as to
why we were going north by the east-coast route and
thus exposing ourselves to the possibility of a surprise
attack. Presumably the Admiralty were accurately
informed as to the unreadiness of the German Fleet.
At noon on the 29th, when we were on the Dogger
Bank, a German three-funnelled cruiser appeared over
the eastern horizon.
The Antrim and Third Cruiser Squadron hustled off
to investigate. The Antrim looked so warlike that the
C.-in-C. sent her a warning signal not to do anything
that might start a war !
30 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
The German turned east and disappeared at a high
rate of speed.
Though most of the Fleet still thought that Admiral
Sir George Callaghan was C.-in-C., in actual fact he was
in London, and the second in command was in charge.
When we reached the latitude of Rosyth, the Iron
Duke put in to that port to await the C.-in-C.
At 6 p.m. on 3ist July the Fleet entered Scapa Flow
in a typical drizzle. Coaling was started, and went on
throughout the night.
The Home Fleet had become the Grand Fleet and
had reached its war base.
On this evening the censorship came into force and
the art of writing private letters suffered a severe blow.
SCAPA FLOW was to be the home of the Grand Fleet
for most of the war, and it seems fitting to devote
a few pages to the place before proceeding with the
Scapa Flow had long been designated as the war
base of our Fleet in the event of war with Germany.
The strategic reasons which influenced this decision
were simple and sound.
In a great war the strength of our Empire depends on
sea communications, and should they be cut we wither
like a plant without roots.
Our enemies were well aware of this fact, and the
German Battle Fleet was a potential menace to these
Geographically, the odds were on our side, for the
British Island is placed directly on the German flank,
and all direct access to the west is thus rendered
There are left but two routes, of which the first,
through the Straits of Dover, presented great difficulties
to surface craft, as the passage through the Straits is
narrow, and hostile ships then find themselves in a
gradually broadening channel, flanked by Portsmouth,
Portland, Plymouth, and Brest.
The second and only feasible passage to the seas of
the world, which were criss-crossed by allied lines of
communication, lay around the north coast of Scotland.
On the flank of this route, the British Fleet was con-
centrated at Scapa Flow.
32 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Scapa Flow has, in addition to its geographical merit,
several other advantages.
It is lonely and difficult of access owing to its isola-
tion from the mainland.
It can easily accommodate the largest fleet, and still
leave a margin of room for gunnery exercises : a 10,000
yards' range can be obtained inside the Flow. It has
more than one entrance, and the depth of water and
strong tides make it difficult for enemy submarines to
operate in the vicinity, either with torpedoes or mines.
The isolation of Scapa and its rugged desolation
presented little distraction to the officers and men who
were in the Grand Fleet.
There was but one thing to live for, and that was
perfection in war.
Under Sir John Jellicoe the Fleet ceaselessly strove
to improve itself in every respect, and the Commander-
in-Chief's energy and wonderful influence permeated
every mess and mess-deck in every type of ship.
The confidence of the Fleet was given unreservedly to
J. J., and we trusted him absolutely.
I question if there is an officer or man who served in
the Grand Fleet for the first two years of the war who
will not endorse this opinion.
There is a striking parallel between Viscount French
of Ypres and Viscount Jellicoe of Scapa Flow : each
paved the way for his successor.
Sir David Beatty had not been granted the supreme
honour of a general fleet action, but in his hands the
lessons of Jutland have been imparted to the Fleet, and
he has seen the British Fleet under his command reach
a pitch of super-efficiency amazing to those who can
appreciate it from the technical point of view.
If the Germanswere acquaintedwith our latest battle-
practice results it is not surprising that they chose
surrender in ignominy to destruction in certainty.
I have strayed somewhat from my subject, but Scapa
SCAPA FLOW 33
is so bound up with the Fleet, and the Fleet has been so
intimately connected with its C.-in-C.'s, that to write of
one is to think of all four.
Scapa had one slight disadvantage from the military
point of view, and that was that the Fleet based on
Scapa was not able to prevent tip-and-run raids by the
German battle-cruisers on the east coast of England.
The Germans were well aware of this, and carried
out their raids on Scarborough and Yarmouth, not so
much to do material damage, but to try and get British
public opinion to stampede the Admiralty into an
alteration of their strategic plan, and possibly a policy
of dispersion of the Fleet.
Their hopes were in vain. The Press and people of
England thought imperially, and the strangle-hold
directed from Scapa, which prevented the Germans
even attempting to obtain command of the sea with
surface craft, was maintained.
Scapa was undefended in any way at the outbreak of
war, and like all ports on the east coast of Britain there
were no submarine defences of any kind.
The first business of the Fleet was to block the
entrances on the eastern side. Time was precious, and
for this purpose a few ancient steamers were sunk.
Later on in the war, I have often looked with envy
at these wrecks and calculated the profits they might
have been making at a time when every ton of shipping
earned its value each voyage it made.
The only other possible extemporized defences were
batteries placed on the bluffs at either side of Hoxa
Sound, which is the southern and main entrance.
These batteries were originally 12- and i8-pounder
field-guns landed from the Fleet, manned by the Orkney
Territorial gunners. In the course of time these minor
weapons were replaced by heavier stuff under the
As soon as possible, steps were taken to protect the
34 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
place against submarines by the construction of a boom
and net, at one end of which a gate operated by two
trawlers permitted the incoming and outgoing of the
Fleet. This boom eventually developed into three
booms and various minefield defences.
The western entrance was also mined and netted.
In addition to the above defences trawlers were con-
stantly on patrol between the booms and in the entrance
to Hoxa Sound.
Destroyers were perpetually cruising farther afield,
the Duty Division of which craft used to lie at Long-
hope (another southern entrance) at five minutes'
notice for steam.
Every now and then they would receive the signal
which meant " Round the Orkneys," and off they
dashed at 28 knots, went right round the group of
islands, and six or seven hours later were back again in
Longhope. This annoyed the U-boats.
The construction of these various defences was the
labour of months, though by December 1914 Scapa was
very fairly secure from submarine attack.
So much for Scapa from the warlike point of view.
From the human point of view it is a place which will
loom large in the memories of many thousand officers
Looking down from an aeroplane over the centre of
Scapa, one saw a large sheet of land-locked water,
roughly circular in shape, of a radius of 4^ miles. The
mainland of Orkney stretches two arms to the south-
ward in a broad angle something like a " V," where the
top of the " V " is to the north.
The space between the ends of the arms is filled in
by a circle of islands, such as Burra, South Ronaldshay,
Swona, Flotta, and Hoy.
These islands overlap each other, and the spaces
between them are the various entrances to Scapa. The
general impression looking from above is that a giant
SCAPA FLOW 35
has put his finger through the middle of the Orkneys,
and that the sea has trickled in and filled up the hole.
The land on the west and south-west side of the
harbour is mountainous moor ; to the south and east
and north it rises barely 300 feet from the sea, and is
dotted with low, sturdily built farms.
Like everything else in those parts, the farms lie close
to the ground in order to withstand the winter gales.
Of real trees there are none to speak of, and except
for the grandeur of the cliffs and mountains on Hoy the
scenery is dull and uninteresting.
The bird life on Hoy is wonderful, and there is plenty
of shooting and fishing for those who are lucky enough
to know the right people.
In the summer and early autumn, when the Fleet
was at four or six hours' notice and twilight lasted all
night, life could be very pleasant at Scapa, and the
atmosphere being of that glorious limpid clarity which
seems to speak of great open spaces in the far north,
the most wonderful colour-effects were of frequent
The average naval officer is not in the habit of devot-
ing many hours to the study of natural colour-effects,
and the sailor has no use for them at all. What the
English race demand, whether in the far north, in the
mud of Flanders, or the heat of Mesopotamia, is games.
The Fleet anchorage was in the south-western corner
of the harbour and fairly close to Flotta Island.
This island, rising hog-backed from the sea, and
largely heather, was more or less seized by the Navy.
Enterprising engineer commanders designed and con-
structed stone piers.
One battleship undertook the construction of a dug-
out waiting-room close to the pier.
The chef-d'oeuvre was the golf-course.
There were 18 holes, and each big ship undertook
the design and construction of one hole.
36 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Great ingenuity and care were taken over the busi-
ness, and one battleship is reputed to have spent 70 in
getting turf for their green from a famous Scottish golf-
To the best of my recollection, H.M.S. Canada or
the King George V was responsible for a wonderful
green, standing as smooth as a billiard-table amidst the
Every afternoon, weather and circumstances per-
mitting, crowds of officers, from Sir John Jellicoe to
the latest joined snotty, lined up in the queue at the
There was no mercy if one lost a ball.
The first hole was about 200 yards downhill.
The usual state of affairs on a busy afternoon was as
follows. One couple hastily putting and almost run-
ning off the first green ; another lot approaching ; a
third running downhill after their drive ; and a
fourth impatiently swinging their clubs on the tee,
and possibly driving over the heads of the third
For the sailors, rectangular patches of heather, as
level and free from bog as possible, were selected, goal-
posts were put up, and the patches were labelled
" football ground."
The sailor landed on the rocks with his football and
Beyond these two games, the only other amusements
were shooting, fishing, walking, and boating picnics on
Saturdays and Sundays.
At certain intervals ships used to go and spend the
week-end on what was called the North Shore, which
was the northern end of the harbour, distinguished by a
pier and a distillery.
From the pier a road led to Kirkwall, the capital of
Personally, I should not select it for a cheery week-
SCAPA FLOW 37
end ; still, it is a town of sorts, and I'm quite sure the
war did Kirkwall no great harm.
Scapa was really beastly in the winter, though some
hardened souls professed to like it even then.
It could be dark at half-past three, and it could blow
so hard for days on end, that the sea inside the harbour
prevented any boats being lowered into the water.
I know of nothing more irritating than to see a
trawler loaded up with mail-bags (and one lived for
mails) crashing about in a heavy sea, whilst the trawler
skipper bellowed through a megaphone that :
" I dout ma abeelity to come alongside ye, owin' ta
the prevalin' condeetions."
I must admit that if it was physically possible they
got the mails and their load of vomiting messmen and
stewards on board the ships.
Every morning, except Sundays (the C.-in-C. was
rigid on this point), the Flow was the scene of great
activity. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers followed
each other at regular intervals carrying out gun and
At night the Flow was lit by the gun flashes and
searchlights of the ships carrying out night firing.
During the day the various bays around the harbour
were each occupied by a ship carrying out i-inch aim-
ing or " Piff," at a target towed by a steamboat.
The object of life was " WAR," and the C.-in-C. saw
that this point was never overlooked.
At regular intervals a complete battle-squadron went
to sea, and carried out heavy firing in the western
entrance of the Pentland Firth, the battle-practice
target being towed by the King Orry, and the keen-
eyed spies and marking party from the Iron Duke
taking passage in the destroyer Oak.
Any account of Scapa in war-time would be incom-
plete without some reference to the Gourko and the
Borodino. The Borodino was run by the Junior Army
38 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
and Navy Stores, and was either alongside some battle-
ship or anchored conveniently in the middle of the
When one felt opulent, a party was organized to go
shopping, and returned laden with novels, games, and
luxuries such as bottles of stuffed olives or salted
The Gourko was the theatre ship.
She could seat about 600 in her main hold, one end
of which was an excellent stage, on which various ships
gave performances of home-made revues and well-
In a big ship of the Queen Elizabeth class with a
complement of 1,000 officers and men, it is wonderful
what can be done by the theatrical party.
Costumes and scenery were frequently imported from
The destroyers, hospital ships, the host of colliers,
oilers, ammunition ships, and other fleet auxiliaries lived
up " Gutter Sound " at Longhope.
They used a different entrance from the Hoxa
one, and were rather far away from the Fleet for social
Later in the war, the Fleet submarines added to the
company of small craft.
Contrary to the popular idea ashore, Scapa Flow is
not a very cold place, and though personally I am a
lover of cities and prefer Princes Street to Hoxa Sound,
I do not agree with the officer who on being asked his
opinion of Scapa said :
" It's gallons of water surrounded by miles and miles
ON the ist August we were able to take stock of our
new surroundings, as to many it was their first visit to
It was extremely difficult to find out what was going
on in the world, as all official sources of supply had
dried up under an intense blast of " super-secrecy."
Some of the two-day-old newspapers seemed to
insinuate we should be at war by the next edition, and
others of the Daily News description seemed unable to
imagine England ever going to war at all.
In the Fleet the general attitude was a longing for
more news and annoyance at being so cut off from
The two local Orkney daily papers each consisted
of one page about 6 inches by 8 inches a meagre and
unsatisfying allowance ; but we became quite affection-
ately disposed towards them in the course of months.
In the evening H.M.S. Centurion arrived, flying the
flag of Sir John Jellicoe, the future C.-in-C.
At 4 a.m. on the 2nd August I left the ship in charge
of a miscellaneous assortment of cutters, whalers, and
skiffs, which were to be got out of the ship and hauled
up on the beach, so as to reduce the amount of wood-
work on board.
I noted with amusement that one of the boats was
the first whaler, in which craft, according to the ship's
order board, myself and fifteen others were supposed
to seek safety in case of the necessity of abandoning
ship ever arising.
40 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
As the boat could only be reasonably expected to
take ten in anything but a flat calm, it did not really
make much difference.
Though the hour was 5 a.m. by the time I had added
our contribution to the hundreds of boats which were
being pulled up on the beach, I repaired to the pier,
where there was much to interest a casual observer.
The air was thick with rumours. I was told by
" the oldest inhabitant " that a spy had been shot " the
nicht," and further, that all the butchers from the Fleet
had been landed at 6 p.m. on the previous night, that
they had slaughtered continuously at the Kirkwall
battue till 3 a.m., in order to get meat for the ships,
and that at that hour the butchers were so exhausted
that they had sunk down in slumber on the floor of
the slaughter-house, oblivious to the blood of their
The ancient Orcadian refused to attempt to estimate
the number of animals done to death.
Passing on, I encountered a sub-lieutenant friend of
mine, Lord B . He was attired in a sporting check
suit and a bowler hat.
I gently protested at the garb, but he silenced my
criticism by explaining that he was on his way to join
the Lion, and that he had come straight from Good-
wood and hadn't the faintest idea where his uniform
was, but he thanked his Maker that he hadn't missed
the Fleet action ! He was as usual in tearing spirits,
and I had to strongly resist the temptation to make
several wagers with him.
My attention was next directed to a fat figure in a
blue serge suit. It was sitting in a dejected attitude
facing the sea ; there were hollows in the cheeks and
unshaven hairs on the chin. The suit was crumpled
and saturated with dew.
I found out the story attached to this individual.
It appeared that at 7 p.m. on the previous night this
THE BEGINNING 4!
man, who was an admiral's head steward, had landed
upon his lawful occasions to purchase food. He had
returned to the pier at 9 p.m. and found it desolate.
He may or may not have been aware that his admiral
had issued a signal ordering that all boats were to be
hoisted at 8 p.m. At all events, such was his own idea
of his importance that he had never conceived it to be
possible that he should be left ashore.
The inconceivable occurred ; and the steward, too
proud to retire to the shelter of Kirkwall, had waited
with ever diminishing hope throughout the night. At
intervals he held forth to the pier master ; I understand
he repeatedly announced his intention of handing in his
This little incident impressed me enormously, and was
a striking contrast to the day on which an admiral,
speaking to the commander concerning the case of a
lieutenant who whilst on watch had run in the admiral's
steward for making footmarks on the quarter-deck,
" Tell Mr. Smith, Commander, that there are 1,200
lieutenants in the Navy List, but in the course of forty
years' experience I have only met one good steward."
I returned on board to breakfast, feeling that we must
be very near war.
All that day was spent by the junior officers of the
ship in a fruitless hunt for news.
The secretary, who was suspected of knowing some-
thing, assumed an air of sphinx-like mystery, which he
successfully maintained for about two years, at the end
of which period the war was really becoming part of
one's life and the oracles began to speak at times.
On 3rd August I was sent away to land a certain
amount of woodwork.
In connexion with this question of landing furniture
and other supposed luxuries of a combustible nature,
opinions differed greatly in various ships.
42 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Certain ships known as " blood and iron " ships
stripped their ward-rooms and cabins, and I believe in
one case ripped the corticine off the mess-deck, a pro-
cedure which is said to have caused My Lords of White-
hall to state that a repetition of this act would entail its
replacement at someone's private expense.
In our case, we were the fortunate example of the
value of studying history.
Our commander produced the confidential book con-
taining the report of our naval attaches in the Russo-
Japanese War, in which it was noted that the Japanese
had stripped the ships at the outbreak of war, and when
the war lasted on, they had found it absolutely essential
to replace it all at considerable expense.
On the strength of this, we very wisely landed very
little, a source of much congratulation later on, when
other ships were laboriously collecting money to buy
I do not think it is generally realized that in this war
the Navy has had to change its ideas as to what modern
war really is, to almost as great an extent as the Army
has had to.
A case in point is that at 6 p.m. on 3rd August
H.M.S. Southampton anchored at the entrance to Scapa
Flow in order to protect the base from submarines
faute de mieux.
On the 4th of August we weighed, and in company
with the Battle Fleet left the harbour and proceeded at
10 knots on an easterly course.
In some rough notes I made at the time I remarked :
" I hear that some form of ultimatum we have pre-
sented to Germany expires at midnight."
It seems curious on looking back to think that when
I wrote those words all London knew the news, but we
didn't. It was a case of
" Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die "
THE BEGINNING 43
with a vengeance. It seems still more curious to
think how certain 60 per cent, of the mess was, that if
war did break out, we should find ourselves " doing and
dying " in the first forty-eight hours.
On the night of the 4th August, whilst the crowds
stood massed in front of Buckingham Palace, I was
keeping the " first " watch.
The watch is from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight.
It was my misfortune to be saddled with the " morn-
ing watch " as well. This latter watch extends from
4 a.m. to 7.30 a.m.
When I came up on the bridge at 3.45 a.m., C ,
the officer of the middle watch, said to me in a matter-
of-fact tone :
" We had a signal at 1.27 a.m. ordering us to
commence hostile acts against Germany."
" You mean war ! " I exclaimed.
" Yes, I suppose so," he answered, then with madden-
ing indifference he began to tell me what course and
speed we were on.
I hardly heard him, for I think that, due to being
educated abroad and having spent some time in Ger-
many, I realized a little more than he did what war
between two Great Powers meant.
How far short of the reality were my wildest
imaginings I was to learn in the course of the next
This, then, was the end of my first life and the
beginning of my second.
My first life had lasted twenty-one and a half years,
and eight and a half of these had been spent in uncon-
scious preparation for the second life of war.
On the morning of the 5th August, a message from
the King was received by wireless. His Majesty has
the happy knack of sending an official message worded
in such a manner that it reads " unofficially," and I for
one believe he writes his messages to the Navy himself.
44 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Our first orders were to capture all the German
trawlers we came across in the northern part of the
North Sea, and to destroy the wireless apparatus in
any neutral trawlers.
I jotted down on the 5th August :
" We know nothing as to the casus belli, or how
matters are proceeding on the Continent. It is quite
impossible at present to grasp the stupendous fact, that
after a century of peace the British Navy has embarked
on a great maritime war. It is useless to speculate on
the outcome. God willing, I shall live to see our Em-
pire emerge triumphant, though I feel that it may be
a very ' waiting and watching ' war."
On the 5th, 6th, and 7th the light cruisers under the
command of our Commodore were busy sinking German
trawlers and warning British and neutral ships of the
outbreak of war. None of them had heard the news,
and one German trawler cheered us enthusiastically as
we bore down upon them.
North of the Shetland Islands we came across a large
fishing fleet. We asked them if there were any
foreigners present. One man, with a voice like a fog-
horn, bellowed out that they came from Hull and were
all Huller men, except one foreigner a Scotsman from
On our ward-room notice-board I noticed on the yth
August a P.P.C. from the ward-room officers of the
German battleship Schleswig-Holstein. Across the
card was written, " We all hope to see you again."
The date was five weeks old.
We coaled at Scapa, and in twenty-four hours the
First Light Cruiser Squadron, which in those days con-
sisted of the Southampton, Birmingham, Liverpool, and
Falmouth, was once more at sea.
H.M.S. Nottingham arrived in the Fleet that evening.
One of her chief stokers, who was on long leave when
she left Devonport in a hurry, missed his ship. He
THE BEGINNING 45
reported to the barracks, but found that he was not
included in a draft which was just going north, and he
was told that he was being reserved for a Third Fleet
ship. He at once broke barracks, and being deter-
mined to reach Scapa, he put on plain clothes and
joined No. i hospital ship as a volunteer.
She sailed for Scapa, on arriving at which base he
deserted from the hospital ship and hastened on board
the Nottingham, where he expressed the hope that he
" wouldn't get into trouble." I am glad to say he
On the evening of Sunday the Qth we were to the
northward of Kinnaird Head. I had been keeping
the first watch, and at about 3 a.m. I was awakened
by the noise of the alarm bells ringing furiously.
To quote some notes :
" I pulled on some clothes and ran up on deck, to find
it was early dawn, rainy and misty. Every second or so
the mistiness ahead was illuminated by a yellow flash,
and the crash of a gun followed.
" Suddenly the Birmingham loomed up straight
ahead, or a shade on our starboard bow, distant
about 2-1- cables (500 yards).
" It was difficult at the moment to say whether the
shells falling between us and the Birmingham were
being fired by the Birmingham, or at her from a ship
on the far side. I restrained our quarter-deck guns'
crew from firing into the Birmingham ; she looked
rather Teutonic in the early morning light.
" The mystery of the alarm was settled by the sudden
appearance of part of the conning-tower of a German
submarine, exactly between ourselves and the Birming-
" How the Birmingham actually turned and rammed
her I could not see ; but she did, and when the
Birmingham turned away, a large oily pool, bubbling
furiously, with three black objects resembling air-
46 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
flasks floating in it, was all that remained of the
This was U.I5, and the first of the 200 odd sub-
marines the British Navy has disposed of during
We had a signal to commence hostilities against
Austria, but it was cancelled two hours later.
The day after this episode, the cruisers and destroyers
carried out a curious operation, which I only mention as
an example of what quaint things were done in the first
months of the war, and how little either the Germans or
ourselves realized the power of the submarines.
It had been reported that German submarines had
been seen using Stavanger Fjord over in Norway. We
were to go and investigate the matter.
A few months later in the war it would have seemed
irresistibly comic to go looking for submarines in
cruisers ; however, on the loth August, 1914, we set out
full of hope. To those who shook their heads, it was
" Have we not within twenty-four hours sunk U.I5,
O ye men of little faith ? "
To this there could be no reply.
Of course, luckily for us, there were not any U.-boats
This sweep was probably done for moral effect on
shore and amongst the crews of the Fleet, as at its com-
pletion the Admiralty issued a communique stating that
the Grand Fleet had swept the sea.
I remember that it was whilst returning from this
sweep that we zig-zagged for the first time to avoid
Before the war ended it is no exaggeration to say
that one felt something had gone wrong if one did not
alter course about every ten minutes.
Concerning this sweep I noted :
" At the head of each division of the Battle Fleet a
THE BEGINNING 47
King Edward VII class battleship was placed, in order
to indicate the presence of mines. We were some three
miles in front of these ' mine-tasters.' I think we are
about the best ship to be in in the Navy, as we are
bound to be well up in everything."
In the course of three years in H.M.S. Southampton
I found no reason to modify that opinion.
After the big sweep we all went to Loch Ewe to coal,
and here I remember noticing the battleships suddenly
break out into camouflaged masts and funnels.
This camouflage in those days was intended to make
it harder for the Germans to take ranges of our ships,
which they did by a method known as the vertical
angle ; for this purpose some conspicuous vertical
object is required on the ship of which it is desired to
know the range.
After various experiments it was not considered that
this camouflage was of much value, and the scheme
Later on in the war, camouflage of the whole hull
was adopted for a different reason. The object of this
camouflage was to make it difficult for a submarine to
tell what course the ship was steering.
To digress for a moment, there is a letter from a
camouflage officer to a merchant skipper who protested
against the vivid splashes of green, blue, and red with
which his ship was being decorated.
The camouflage officer wrote in reply :
" DEAR SIR, The object of camouflage is not, as
you suggest, to turn your ship into an imitation of a
West African parrot, a rainbow in a naval pantomime,
or a ' gay woman.' The object of camouflage is rather
to give the impression that your head is where your
stern really is."
For about a fortnight the light cruisers had a strenu-
ous time sweeping about in various areas.
48 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
In the first two or three months of the war it was
customary to rule off a rectangle 50 miles by 100 in
the North Sea, and call it Area I, II, III, IV, as the
case might be.
Light cruisers were then sent to cruise about the area.
This was unproductive of results, and was soon aban-
doned when submarines got busy.
During the month of August, from immediately after
the outbreak of war, our submarines had been in the
Bight, or wet triangle as the Germans delighted to
The British E-boats, based on Harwich, nosed about
round Heligoland (one actually grounded there) and
penetrated into the mouths of the German rivers.
Little escaped their curious periscopes, and they soon
discovered that the Germans were working a night
patrol off the Bight with destroyers and light cruisers.
It was the habit of these gentry to retire into the Bight
at dawn each day ; and it was decided to cut them out.
This task was entrusted to Sir David Beatty in the
Lion, with the battle-cruisers ; our Commodore in the
Southampton, with the light cruisers ; and Commodore
Tyrwhitt in the newly commissioned Arethusa, leading
the Harwich force of destroyers.
At 3 a.m. on the 28th August, the forces concerned
rendezvoused near the Horn's Reef light -vessel, which
is about 80 miles north of Heligoland.
At 4 a.m. the sweep started.
THE HELIGOLAND BIGHT ACTION
THE plan of operations was simple and depended for
its success on surprise.
Broadly speaking, the operation may be compared
to the movements of a forefinger, the knuckle of which
rested on the I have drawn on the chart on
page 50, and the nail of the finger being close to
Heligoland. Pivoting approximately on 9, the finger
scooped out in a clockwise direction the general area
To continue the analogy of the finger, the finger-nail
was Commodore Tyrwhitt's force, the first joint was
the supporting light cruisers under Commodore
Goodenough, and the second joint and knuckle were
Admiral Beatty's supporting battle-cruisers ; whilst
the Battle Fleet in the background may be fairly com-
pared to the wrist that held the hand.
The day dawned calm and foggy. This mist hung
over the water all day, and on the whole was an
advantage to us, as it added to the confusion and the
uncertainty of the Germans, and protected us from the
batteries of Heligoland, which were unable to fire a shot.
At the same time it made it difficult for our three
squadrons to keep alignment with each other during the
sweep, and in the course of the day we lost touch with
two of our light cruisers for several hours.
At 8 a.m., when a few miles to the west-by-north of
Heligoland, we altered course from south to south-
west, and received a signal to say that destroyers were
engaging destroyers, whilst at the same time we heard
\ /'8a.m. \
/\ Heligoland "'"-.
. } Emden
FlG. I. Approximate track of H.M.S. Southampton, neglecting
various twists and zig-zags.
(Sketch is not accurate to scale.)
THE HELIGOLAND BIGHT ACTION 51
gun-fire to the south-east of us, where we knew Com-
modore Tyrwhitt to be.
We acted on the good old maxim of going where you
hear a gun, and stood over towards the firing. It was
impossible to see anything, but at the same time it was
undeniably a most thrilling sensation to be moving
through the mist at 24 knots towards the first sounds
of gun-fire in battle that most of us had ever heard.
At 8.25 a.m. two black shapes, which revealed them-
selves to be German destroyers travelling at a very
high rate of speed, appeared on our starboard bow.
They had evidently been patrolling seawards, and,
hearing the firing in between themselves and the
German coast, they were scooting into their homes as
quickly as they could.
We got the forecastle and starboard-bow gun to bear
on them and opened fire, but, as the mist prevented any
ranging, we could only hope for a lucky hit.
Two white puffs or splashes were seen to proceed
from the enemy, and it was not until some ten minutes
later, when three witnesses saw the track of a torpedo
across our stern, that we realized that the Germans had
fired two torpedoes at us.
The hostile destroyers were going at least 32 knots
and were moving between enormous bow waves, with
their sterns tucked well down, and in about three minutes
they had crossed our bows and disappeared in the mist.
Shortly after this episode we were unfortunately
observed by H. M.S. Lurcher, the destroyer in which the
Commodore of Submarines, the present Vice-Admiral
Sir Roger Keyes, used in those early days to cruise
about the Bight.
As usual, several of our ubiquitous submarines were
in the Bight on this occasion.
I say " unfortunately " the Lurcher saw us, as she
obtained only a fleeting glimpse of us, and at once
reported by wireless two German light cruisers in a
52 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
position a few miles to the south-west of where we
calculated we were. This sounded like business, so we
abandoned our intention of trying to find the destroyer
scrap and hastily shaped course to where we under-
stood the two German cruisers had been seen.
Sad to say, we were chasing ourselves ; the discrep-
ancy in our position and that calculated by the Lurcher,
led us astray, and for about an hour we were on a wild-
This matter of accurate position-finding is of prime
importance in a naval action, and especially so where
wireless signals are concerned, as in such cases one acts
on a signal such as : " Hostile cruisers, lat. 54 N. long.
Now the ship that saw these cruisers probably saw
them perhaps 10 miles S. 50 E. of her own position.
She may have been at sea two or three days, or, in the
case of a submarine, perhaps ten days.
During this period she may never have seen a land-
mark or lightship of any sort. She has had to rely on
her " sights " of the sun and stars. Should the weather
have been thick, even " sights " may have been denied
to her, in which case she has to rely on what is known
as " dead reckoning."
This consists of plotting courses and speeds since she
left harbour, and estimating an allowance for wind,
tide, and erroneous speed.
It is thus obvious that in the case imagined above of
a ship reporting hostile cruisers, she may herself be
under a misapprehension as regards her true position
a state of affairs which vitiates by a corresponding
amount all her " enemy reports."
If one is in sight of a ship reporting the enemy, the
matter is simple ; she simply flashes by light, " Enemy
such-and-such a distance, bearing so-and-so from me."
I have mentioned this matter at some length, as
during the war several cases of the importance of posi-
THE HELIGOLAND BIGHT ACTION 53
tions and the results of errors came under my notice.
On this occasion we chased ourselves for about fifty
minutes, when suddenly every one was electrified to
see a periscope on the starboard bow, distant 500 yards.
The helm was put hard over, the ship heeled, and we
prepared to ram her. The submarine made a steep
dive, and some people on the forebridge stated that
she went down at such an angle that her tail nearly
came out of the water.
A few seconds later we thundered over the place
where she had been, and they must have heard the roar
of our propellers as we passed over them.
In about ten minutes' time the Lurcher suddenly
appeared, and asked us why we were attacking her
Luckily the submarine we had tried to ram had
recognized our red ensign, which was flying as a battle-
flag, just as he intended to torpedo us. Explanations
with the Lurcher ensued, and the mystery of the two
German light cruisers was cleared up.
It was too late by this time to turn back to where
the destroyer scrap had been going on, and at the
moment no sounds of gun-fire came from the mist, so
we decided to carry on with the sweep as arranged, on
the assumption that the Harwich destroyers with the
Arethusa and Fearless were somewhere inside us on a
An uneventful hour passed, until at n a.m. we inter-
cepted a signal from Commodore Tyrwhitt, to the
effect that he was heavily engaged with German light
cruisers and he wanted assistance.
We at once altered course 16 points, and started
back as hard as we could towards where we imagined
the Arethusa to be.
The sound of gun-fire was very heavy right ahead of
us when we turned round, and at irregular intervals
a flash of yellow flame came through the mist.
54 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
At 11.30 we seemed very close to the action, and the
firing was so heavy that it seemed almost as if we were
in the middle of the fight, except that no shells could
At 11.40 a number of destroyers, which turned out
to be British, steamed out of the mist, evidently retiring
from something, and a moment later we sighted the
Arethusa on our port bow in action at close range with
the German light cruiser Mainz.
Our squadron at that moment consisted of the South-
ampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Lowestoft, Liverpool,
and Falmouth, disposed in quarter line, and as soon as
the Mainz saw us she ceased fire on the sorely tried
Arethusa and very wisely fled like a stag.
At 10,000 yards the squadron opened fire, and the
German replied with a straggling fire from her after
4-i-inch guns. Most of her shots fell short, but a- few
hummed over us.
It was very peculiar hearing the moaning sob, and
realizing that a lump of steel full of explosives had just
gone by. I examined myself carefully to see if I was
frightened, and came to the conclusion that on the
whole I was excited and rather anxious.
The Mainz was now under the fire of about fifteen
6-inch guns, and suddenly there were two yellow flashes
amidships of a different nature from the red jabs of
flame from her own guns, and I realized she had been
A most extraordinary feeling of exultation rilled the
mind. One longed for more yellow flashes ; one
wanted to hurt her, to torture her ; and one said to
oneself, " Ha ! there's another ! Give her hell ! " as
if by speaking one could make the guns hit her.
Though she was being hit, she was not being hit
enough, as at the range of 10,000 yards in that mist it
was nearly impossible to see the splashes of the shells and
thus control the fire. Also she still had the legs of us.
THE HELIGOLAND BIGHT ACTION 55
To our dismay, the mist came down, and for five
minutes we drove on without sight of her.
Down below, in complete ignorance of what had been
happening, the stokers forced the boilers until our
turbines would take no more, and, the safety valves
lifting, the steam roared up the exhaust pipes at the
side of the funnels with a deafening roar.
Suddenly everything happens suddenly in a naval
action with ships moving at 30 miles an hour we came
on top of the Mainz only 7,000 yards away, and the
range decreasing every moment.
Something had happened to her whilst she was in
the mist, for she was lying nearly stopped.
It is now almost certain that she was torpedoed
forward by a destroyer, though it will never be known
which destroyer flashing past her in the mist launched
the blow which permitted us to overtake her.
When the destroyers found themselves being harried
by light cruisers, the traditional foe of the destroyers,
they had lashed out viciously with their torpedoes and
fired some thirty.
An eye-witness told me that the sea was furrowed
with their tracks : I think he was being cynical. At all
events, one got home on the Mainz, and we closed
down on her, hitting with every salvo.
She was a mass of yellow flame and smoke as the
lyddite detonated along her length.
Her two after-funnels melted away and collapsed.
Red glows, indicating internal fires, showed through
gaping wounds in her sides.
At irregular intervals one of her after-guns fired a
solitary shot, which passed miles overhead.
In ten minutes she was silenced and lay a smoking,
battered wreck, her foremost anchor flush with the
water. Ant-like figures could be seen jumping into
the water as we approached.
The sun dispersed the mist, and we steamed slowly
56 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
to within 300 yards of her, flying as we did so the signal
" Do you surrender ? " in International Code. As we
stopped, the mainmast slowly leant forward, and, like
a great tree, quite gradually lay down along the
As it reached the deck a man got out of the main
control top and walked aft it was Tirpitz junior.
I have a photograph of him standing, a solitary figure,
on the extreme end of his ship.
Her bridge was knocked to pieces and there was no
one to read our signal, which signal seems incongruous
in 1918, but the last precedent was years old in 1914.
Nevertheless, as we watched, a flag fluttered down
from the foretopmast head ; it had been lowered by
The feeling of exultation was succeeded by one of
pity as I looked at this thing that had been a ship.
Through glasses I could see that her deck was a
shambles a headless corpse, stripped to the waist,
hung over the forecastle side. This was indeed war,
and the first realization of war is like one's first love,
a landmark in life.
The hundred or so survivors in the water were wear-
ing lifebelts and raising their hands, shouting for help.
We were debating what could be done when we were
roused from the contemplation of our handiwork by
the sudden outbreak of firing to the northward.
The Liverpool was detailed to rescue survivors and
sulk the Mainz, whilst the Southampton with the rest
of the light cruisers started to get under way towards
the new action.
We had hardly begun to move through the water,
ere I saw a magnificent sight ; it was the battle-cruisers.
They had been coming up at full speed from the south-
west towards all the firing, they had also of course
received the Arethusa's call for help.
It was undoubtedly a bold and dashing decision to
THE HELIGOLAND BIGHT ACTION 57
bring these great ships into the Bight, and, as often
happens in war, this decision was successful.
The battle-cruisers arrived too late to do anything to
the Mainz, but they were determined to get up in time
to participate in the firing to the north which had just
It is difficult to describe the impression produced by
these monsters as, following in each other's wake, they
emerged one by one from the mist, and flashed past like
Not a man could be seen on their decks ; volumes of
smoke poured from their funnels ; their turret guns,
trained expectantly on the port bow, seemed eager for
We were just able to work up sufficient speed to get
astern of the Indomitable, when we sighted the unfor-
tunate Germans, which were two small cruisers, the
Kohn and the Ariadne. They had run into a detached
group of our destroyers, hence the firing. A succession
of salvos rolled out from the Lion and her squadron.
One German disappeared in a cloud of steam and
smoke ; the other drifted away in the mist, burning
furiously and sinking.
I was watching this spectacle on our port bow, when
I heard a " crump ! crump ! crump ! " and turning
round saw a salvo of splashes stand up in the water, a
few hundred yards from our starboard side. I could
not make out where these shells had come from, until
I noticed a four-funnelled cruiser on the horizon about
14,000 yards away, where there happened to be a clear
patch, for I could see the German coast and some
chimneys behind her. As I watched her a ripple of
flame ran down her side, and I knew another flight of
shells were on their way. They arrived with a
" whump " exactly right for range, but between
the Birmingham and ourselves, about 50 yards astern
58 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
We were quite surprised by this unexpected attack,
but the Birmingham at once retaliated with a salvo of
6-inch, an example we were not long in following,
though it seemed ages before our guns went off.
We exchanged several salvos with her, and she
straddled us once without hitting, whilst we saw one of
our shells detonate on board her. We discovered
months afterwards that this shell had landed on her
quarter-deck and killed about sixty men, as the Ger-
mans had a habit in those days of taking spare guns'
crews to sea with them, and these gentry were being
mustered when our shell arrived. She turned and went
into port, and we followed the battle cruisers.
It was now 4 p.m., and as we were within 15 miles of
the German Fleet their arrival on the scene of action
was expected any moment.
I believe, as a matter of fact, that the sound of the
firing could be heard on the ships in Wilhelmshaven,
where they were making desperate efforts to raise steam
in the big ships and come out and drive us off.
At 4.15 p.m. we left the Bight and steered at high
speed for Scapa. I started the day at midnight on the
2yth-28th and ended it at 4 a.m. on the 29th.
I have forgotten to mention that we saw a number of
floating mines in the Bight, which were avoided by
quick use of the helm.
We arrived at Scapa Flow at 8 p.m. on the 29th, well
pleased with ourselves. The Arethusa and Fearless and
our damaged destroyers had got in, and the casualties
in officers and men were slight. On the other side,
we had sunk three German light cruisers and two
Looking back, there are several interesting features
connected with this action.
When the Mainz was sunk, we found that she had
rafts on her decks, and that her guns' crews had been
wearing lifebelts. This struck us at the time as very
THE HELIGOLAND BIGHT ACTION 59
bad for the morale ; we soon altered our opinion when
the submarine menace started in earnest.
We were also made acquainted for the first time with
the remarkably long ranges of the German 4-i-inch
guns, due to their large angles of elevation.
This cuts both ways, as at long ranges the German
shells were falling almost vertically, and it was quite
easy for their shells to fall just " over " without hitting
The Germans fought well. They always have fought
well whenever I have seen them fight at sea, and they
were beaten on this day because they were overwhelmed
by a greatly superior force ; and the side which can
achieve this state of affairs will, other things being
equal, always win in war.
When we arrived in Scapa, it was a perfect summer's
evening, and we had a great reception from the battle-
ships, who cheered us vigorously, whilst the Orion sent
parties over to help us coal a service which was very
much appreciated, but which I never saw repeated.
No less than three girls competed for the honour of
sending me chocolates, and an unknown number of
ladies sent sacks of warm clothing to the ship. Gradu-
ally, as was inevitable, this enthusiasm died out, the
pendulum swung over, and I once more occupied the
position of a giver of chocolates ; nor at the beginning
of winter in 1915 did one go down to the half-deck and
contemptuously cast aside knitted waistcoats because
the colour did not suit.
On Sunday we were given four hours' leave, and the
thirsty members of the Mess repaired to the hotel at
Kirkwall, where each described the action to an eager
group of officers from the battleships, pausing at
intervals to " have another " and celebrate the victory.
Towards the end of the afternoon some very divergent
accounts of the scrap were in circulation.
THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW
A FEW days after our return from the Heligoland scrap,
the famous battle of Scapa Flow took place.
This incident, which has never reached the ears of the
public, is famous with all naval officers who were in the
Grand Fleet at the opening of the war. The whole
business started towards the end of the afternoon,
when sounds of gun-fire came from the light cruiser
Falmouth, which was guarding the eastern entrance.
She reported having fired at and sunk a submarine,
whose periscope she had seen moving through the
It was considered possible that she had not sunk the
submarine, if one ever existed, and it was assumed that
a Hun submarine might quite possibly be inside Scapa.
A signal was made that all destroyers were to raise
steam as soon as possible and move about the harbour
at high speed.
Within three-quarters of an hour the Flow was
covered with destroyers rushing about at full speed, and
the sky was black with volumes of smoke.
The Admiral Commanding Orkneys and Shetlands
hoisted an admiral's flag in a destroyer and joined the
The excitement was added to by the occasional dis-
charge of a 4-inch gun from some battleship which
imagined she had seen a periscope.
The traffic in the harbour was added to by the fact
that all the big ships got their picket-boats out, and
these, under the command of midshipmen, cruised
THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW 6l
vigorously about looking for submarines. What they
would have done if they had met one I do not suppose
their commanders quite knew, for depth charges had
not been invented then.
The question as to whether a German submarine had
or had not got into Scapa Flow remained a somewhat
doubtful point, and it was decided, as a precautionary
measure, to take the whole Fleet round to Loch Ewe on
the west coast, and this was done after dark.
Rumour has had it that an engineer rear-admiral was
seen scrambling up a Jacob's ladder which dangled over
the stern of the repair-ship Cyclops, such was the speed
of the evacuation. However, after a day or two's
absence, the Fleet returned to its base.
We had meanwhile carried out various sweeps to-
wards the Norwegian coast in company with the battle-
cruisers, in the course of which the only excitement was
caused by a report we received one morning that a
German light cruiser was being chased to the northward
by the Swift.
Other ships picked up the signal, and soon an
observer in an aeroplane with a radius of horizon of
100 miles would have seen a collection of light cruisers
and destroyers spread over some 50 miles and headed
by the Swift, all steaming north at full speed.
The German light cruiser had originated in the mind
of someone who had caught sight of the Swift a ship
of unique appearance in the distance. The Swift had
intercepted the signal and seen some smoke on the
horizon, which, coupled with a difference of opinion as
to positions, had started the ball rolling. We got up
to the latitude of Lerwick before we discovered the
At about this period we went to the Firth of Forth
for a few days, and found submarines very active in the
I see I noted down :
62 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" Sunday, 6th Sept. Coaled ship ; submarine scare
by Forth Bridge batteries during the night.
" Monday, jth. Four hours' leave was granted to
officers, so I went up to Edinburgh ; it was nice being
ashore in town. There are plenty of soldiers every-
where, and people turned round to look at naval officers
in uniform, which was evidently a strange sight.
" I had my hair cut by a man whose brother had
given the Russians cigarettes, so it seems it is true that
the Russians are passing through.
" Fresh submarine scare by the soldiers during the
" Tuesday, 8th. Weighed and proceeded out. We
were not sorry to clear the land, as several submarines
had been seen off May Island and Bass Rock."
With reference to my remark about people turning
round to look at naval uniforms, it was not long before
more naval officers were to be seen on a fine afternoon
in Princes Street than in any other street in the British
A combined sweep towards the Bight, which was
intended as a repetition of the Heligoland action,
ensued, but it was unproductive.
We returned to Scapa, spent a few days there, and
then carried out another sweep, which was confined to
I was on watch at about 7 a.m. on the 22nd Septem-
ber, and we were steaming north, in beautiful weather,
with the Norwegian coast on our starboard hand, which
looked very lovely in the early morning sun, when I
heard a voice exclaim : " Signal, sir ! "
I took the flimsy piece of paper, which was dated
7.15 a.m., and was horrified to read these words :
" Cressy to all ships, Aboukir is sinking, so are we."
I was still trying to grasp what this meant, when at
7.25 we received two words : " Hague sinking."
THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW 63
Then there succeeded an ominous silence, broken only
by persistent efforts on the part of Harwich to call the
One more fragment, one last cry from the dying ships
came through : it was a latitude and longitude close to
the Hook of Holland. Then there was complete wire-
It seemed terrible to think that we were powerless to
help 1,500 to 2,000 officers and men who were fighting
for their lives 300 miles away across the smooth sunlit
Everyone in the ship was rather depressed by this
disaster. One day the causes which contributed to the
loss of these ships will doubtless be carefully examined
by those in possession of all the facts.
In the afternoon we received an " Admiralty to all
ships " wireless message, pointing out the necessity of
big ships deserting one of their number who might have
The German commander who torpedoed those three
ships was Weddigen, in U.g. He was subsequently
rammed by H.M.S. Dreadnought when he attacked the
Grand Fleet in U.2g.
U.Q, decorated with an iron cross, is now lying
amongst 120 other U. -boats in Harwich harbour.
A few days later we were once more at sea, off the
Naze, and on the 28th-2Qth September, 1914, we en-
countered the heaviest gale I have ever met in the
North Sea. We were obliged to heave-to for sixteen
hours, and the seas in the Norwegian Deep (where we
were) were truly mountainous, an appelation which is
applied too frequently to seas without any justification.
The wind blew from the north-west, and the whole
surface of the sea was white with streaks of foam and
When the gale was at its height, with the wind
blowing about force 10, we saw an interesting sight.
64 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
H.M.S. Drake, a big armoured cruiser in which I
had a family interest, and a submarine drifted into
sight. The submarine was 5, and this party had
been on a reconnaissance inside the Skaw.
It was interesting to observe the three types of
vessels, the Drake pitching and rolling and plunging
heavily, her great bows being right out of the water
one moment and her forecastle buried in a wave the
next, the submarine moving like a half-submerged
rock. 5 caused us some anxiety by disappearing
for twenty-four hours. We found out afterwards that
she had only got so " fed up " with the gale that she
decided to dive for a day.
On our way back to Scapa we searched for seaplane
No. 77, which had been missing for twenty-four hours,
but without any success.
I see in my notes that on arrival at Scapa I visited
the hospital ship Rohilla, where I was attending the
dentist, and that I was greatly incensed by a lieutenant
from the New Zealand whom I met there, and who
enraged me by asking me whether the Southampton had
let off their guns at the Heligoland action.
In the opening days of October the first Canadian
Expeditionary Force came over in thirty-one ships.
For nine days the entire Fleet occupied various
positions in the North Sea in order to guard against
the possibility of the German battle-cruisers making a
sortie and attacking the convoy. At least we were out
for nine days, and I think the Battle Fleet farther north
were at sea for a similar period.
The scheme was to have two patrol lines across the
North Sea, at such a distance apart in a north and
south direction that nothing could pass one line in the
dark without being seen by the other line in the
Our beat (the First Light Cruiser Squadron) was the
western end of the southern line.
THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW 65
The exact position of the lines was altered daily in
order to make submarine attack less likely, as by this
stage of the war the submarine menace was being
seriously considered. On one night of this patrol an
incident occurred which might easily have had serious
In a signal which we sent by wireless to our squadron,
who were spread ahead of us, we intended to say that
the squadron would turn together to south. Unfor-
tunately the word south was coded as " east," and
during the first watch the whole squadron suddenly
came down on top of us.
Luckily it was a bright moonlight night and recogni-
tion was easily established, but had it been dark and a
gun gone off, it would have been difficult to stop an
action. In connexion with this question of recognition
at night, the German enjoyed one great advantage at
sea throughout the whole war : he knew that whenever
he came out, he could safely open fire on anything he
met at night.
We were not in the same happy position, as, apart
from regular groups of ships whose position one always
knew, there were invariably a number of detached
single ships, bound from base to base, or to refit,
etc., and innumerable patrols, sweepers, and other
It was not always possible to know exactly when to
expect to meet these odd ships ; and the Germans
showed great lack of enterprise in not sending over an
occasional cruiser to make a raid on the night traffic up
the east coast of England and Scotland.
There is no doubt that the advantage of initial sur-
prise would have been with the German, as any system
of challenging by flashing light is slower than a salvo of
6-inch, which would have been the German's reply to
It was whilst on this duty in connexion with the
66 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Canadian convoy that the Lowestoft, of our squadron,
discovered one float of the seaplane 77.
On Thursday, 7th October, we had the misfortune to
lose a boy overboard. I tried to save him, but un-
fortunately he had a large copper voice-pipe on his
head. I was in the water about twenty minutes ; it
was damnably cold, and I had more or less given up
hope when I was picked up. The temperature of the
sea was 52 F.
Two or three days after our arrival at Scapa, having
coaled, provisioned, and read a large mail, we were
once more at sea.
In those early months we were the only light cruisers
available with the Grand Fleet, and we did a very great
deal of sea-time.
Five days in harbour seemed a boon, for the policy
in the beginning of the war was to always have some
ships sweeping and searching the North Sea, and on
every trip we made, and the length of these trips seemed
to be regulated solely by our fuel capacity, we hoped
and for a long time even expected to encounter portions
of the German Navy on a similar errand.
As the thousands of revolutions on our engine
counters grew into hundreds of thousands, our expecta-
tions steadily receded and only the hope was left.
Submarines were the only German ships one expected
to meet in the North Sea.
In those early days C and myself did not get
much sleep. We were the two night watch-keeping
officers. One night, one of us kept the " middle "
(12-4 a.m.) and the other fellow kept the " first and
morning." The next night the roles were reversed.
I can remember the agony of turning out in the
winter at 3.45 a.m. when one had turned in very tired
and wet at 12.15 a.m. after the first.
On the first trip after my ducking, the Hawke was
torpedoed close to us.
THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW 67
On the I7th October, 1914, we heard that the Grand
Fleet was leaving Scapa, as submarines were supposed
to have got in.
As a matter of fact it was subsequently discovered
that a torpedo had rolled out of its tube on board a
destroyer and passed close to H.M.S. Leda, who quite
naturally reported " Torpedo has passed under my
stern." This caused all the excitement.
Submarines were also reported all over the place,
from St. Catherine's in the Isle of Wight to the Downs
in the Channel, and again in the Western Isles of Scot-
land. Lough Swilly was selected as a temporary base,
presumably whilst Scapa was being made more secure.
We arrived very late one night, and coaled ship most
of the night. When the inhabitants of the village
opposite which we were anchored woke up and saw a
number of light-grey ships in the harbour some of the
peasants thought we were German.
The day after our arrival at Lough Swilly I went
ashore for a walk with the secretary and K the
gunnery lieutenant. It was the first time I had been
ashore, with the exception of one day in Edinburgh, since
we left Weymouth, and we had done much sea-time.
I can still remember vividly how we loved being
ashore amongst trees and pretty country. And because
I enjoyed it so much I am going to revive the memory
by copying down what I wrote that evening when I got
back on board. I wrote :
" Monday, igth. Went for a glorious walk, eating
blackberries and sniffing the green grass with K ,
C , and the soldier. We had a great battle on the
hills, amongst the heather, with clods of turf.
" I also had speech with a dear old lady, who called
down every blessing on my head, as she has a son who
is a leading stoker in the Argyll, and I said I would
write and tell him that I have seen her. Which I have
68 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" An old man ashore thought that the whole British
Navy was here though the Battle Fleet wasn't even in.
On being told that there were ten times as many as
those he saw, he said, ' Thank God ! thank God ! ' and
threw up his hands in delight.
" Just as we got back to the boat I saw an extremely
pretty and well-dressed girl. I felt a tremendous desire
to go up to her and say, ' Don't think me mad, but I
just want to say " how do you do " to you and talk to
you for five minutes.'
" It is three months since I spoke to a lady, and I
frankly confess I like ladies ! K says he will fit me
with a chain next time we go ashore.
" Our amateur band which the secretary and myself
are getting up amongst the sailors is making good
progress. I asked the Commodore whether he would
recommend me for specializing in submarines, as I
think they will have a great time in this war, but he
does not wish me to leave the ship at present."
We were not destined to remain long in the absolute
peace of Lough Swilly, and a couple of days after my
walk we were struggling east across the North Sea in
the teeth of a furious gale. We were progressing only
at the rate of about 5 knots, and after twenty-four hours
of it we received orders to abandon the patrol and
return to Scapa.
On the 26th we heard that the Audacious had been
mined off the north coast of Ireland, and a few hours
after the news came through we heard that it was to be
kept very secret. But as photographs of her sinking
appeared in the American papers it was always a
secret de polichinelle.
On the 3rd of November the Southampton was
detached from the squadron, and we proceeded to
Cromarty to go on the floating dock for a week.
THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW 69
We were much interested in the " gate " and anti-
submarine boom which had just been fitted, and which
was a great novelty in those days.
We had been allowed to tell our female relatives in a
guarded manner that if they came to Invergordon on a
certain date they would " see something to interest
them," and several wives came up and one mother, who
was the lady I was interested in.
We had hardly got up to Invergordon and anchored
when we suddenly heard that the Yarmouth raid
was on, and that we were to get to sea as soon as
I was lying in the smoking-room, cursing this un-
expected event, when the officer of the watch came
down and said, " There are several ladies on board, and
one of them seems to want to see you."
I went on deck, and found that the wives and my
mother had somehow found out that the ship was
sailing, and as in those days every time a ship went to
sea a battle was expected, the ladies had wangled a tug
from someone and arrived alongside. The whole affair
was very irregular, but they were allowed on board for
ten minutes, at the end of which time they departed
amidst cheers from the sailors.
We sailed half an hour later, but long before we could
have got there the Germans were back in Wilhelms-
haven, and so we found ourselves back in Cromarty
harbour next morning.
We had a very pleasant ten days' rest. Officers and
men were allowed forty-eight hours' leave as far as
Inverness an unheard-of concession in 1914 and it is
very pleasant to record that we did not have a single
case of leave-breaking.
Coming back from my forty-eight hours' leave, the
train was one and a half hours late at Dingwall. I put
my head out of the window and made some impatient
remark to an ancient railway official. He looked at me
70 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
more in sorrow than in anger, and delivered himself of
the following obiter dictum :
" Young mon, dinna fash yersel, the Hielan' Railway
was no' deesigned ta stand the strain o' a European
waur ! "
We left Cromarty for Scapa on the I5th November,
I noted down that :
" I had the middle watch, and at 12.50 the T.B.D.
Star, without seeing us, cut right across my bow. I just
avoided dividing her into two equal parts by putting
the helm hard over and going full speed astern with one
engine. Neither of us had lights, of course. I made
him hop out of it when he did see us. In a few minutes
we were back on our course, and no one any the wiser.
" Nov. 16, 1914. Scapa blowing very hard ;
hoisted all boats ; snowed in my middle watch and was
" Nov. 17, 1914. Blowing very hard and snowing ;
went to sea and did some firing.
" Nov. 19, 1914. Off Muckle Flugga (north-eastern
point of Shetlands) saw a fat Norwegian liner, which
made everyone lick their lips. To our disgust, found
she had a pass from British Consul, New York, and had
been boarded five miles off Sandy Hook by a British
" Nov. 20, 1914 (p.m.). Scapa coaling.
" Nov. 22, 1914. To sea."
Our object in going to sea on the 22nd was as part
of a large fleet which was to support an air raid on the
At the last moment the air-raid part of the business
was cancelled and the seaplane-carrier returned to her
base at Harwich, but having got close to the Bight, we
thought we would have a look, and the Second Ar-
moured Cruiser Squadron (Shannons). Falmouth and
THE BATTLE OF SCAPA FLOW 71
Liverpool were told to go and see if there was anything
The battle-cruisers and ourselves were about 20 miles
to the northward of them, and the Battle Fleet north
I remember we had a grievance in the Southampton
at being kept in support, as we felt that the battle-
cruiser force, as it eventually became, had established a
priority claim to play in the Bight, at least as far as
surface ships were concerned ; for the Harwich sub-
marines spent more time diving about in the Bight
than anywhere else, in fact they almost used it as an
exercising ground, and as depth charges and bombing
from aeroplanes, etc., had not yet been invented the
Eighth and Ninth Submarine Flotillas treated every
effort of the Hun to drive them off the German door-
step with " stinking contempt."
Our only excitement was the sudden appearance of
Commodore Tyrwhitt and his destroyers, who arrived
looking very warlike. It transpired that when they
first sighted us they thought we were Huns.
The Second Cruiser Squadron and company went
in and reported that they could see Heligoland, which
fired at them, but the shots fell just short, and that
the only other signs of life were much smoke and a
submarine on the surface. I believe this to be the only
time in the war that the Heligoland forts have been
able to open fire on surface ships.
We all retired at noon, and at I p.m. a solitary
German seaplane droned up from the south and dropped
two or three tiny bombs near the Falmouth. This must
have been the first case of aerial bombing at sea.
We were detached from the Fleet next day and
carried out a sweep up the Norwegian coast.
We returned to Scapa and the inevitable coaling.
We were at once told off for a monotonous four days'
patrol from the entrance of Scapa to a point 60 miles
72 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
south-east, then 80 miles north, then back to our
starting-point. A sort of triangular yachting course,
and vile weather the whole time.
The ill-fated Natal, Birmingham, and ourselves
carried out this business, which was intended to prevent
fast surface mine-layers operating off Scapa.
My notes say :
" Dec. 4, 1914. Came in and coaled ; blowing like
" Dec. 5, 1914. It blew like sin, and we dropped
another anchor underfoot and almost lost our steam-
cutter trying to hoist her. I was officer of the watch,
and she was plunging about on the falls like a mad
dog, surging up and down about eight feet. The fore
guy of the foremost davit carried away twice, and the
five-ton boat came into the ship's side with a crash.
Finally dragged her up anyhow with the two davits
at right angles to each other, after one and a half hours'
struggle in cutting rain.
" Dec. 6, 1914. Blew a full gale."
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK
ON the I5th December, 1914, the Second Battle
Squadron under Vice-Admiral Sir George Warrender,
the Third Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral
Pakenham, and the First Light Cruiser Squadron (as
we were called until the Galatea class formed a squadron
under Commodore Sinclair) under our Commodore left
Scapa Flow for a sweep.
A great deal of uncertainty as to what did happen
exists amongst the officers who were present, and the
whole affair lies under a shadow which is due to the
disappointment experienced by the Navy in the fact
that, whereas at one period of the day it seemed im-
possible for the Germans to escape action, yet a few
hours later they were clear of the coast and steaming
unmolested at full speed for Germany.
I intend therefore to make quite plain only what I
saw myself, and only what I heard from eye-witnesses
after the action was over and one met other officers in
At about dawn on i6th December we were to the
north-eastwards of the Dogger Bank, when we received
a signal to the effect that some T.B.D.'s had been in
action with German cruisers, and the enemy were now
retiring to the eastwards. We proceeded to chase east,
as we gathered that the enemy cruisers appeared to be
going only about 20 knots.
They had a start of some 30 miles on us, so it did not
seem very promising. The battle-cruisers and ourselves
soon left the Second Battle Squadron and Third
74 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Cruiser Squadron behind, and we pushed east at full
speed for about an hour, when destroyers were sighted
ahead, which proved to be British and on an opposite
course. They had been shadowing the Huns since
they left the British coast, and the Huns had not
appeared to worry about them much for some time,
until the T.B.D.'s got rather close, upon which one of
the German cruisers had lashed out at them and hit
one of them. As at that period we were still 30 miles
to the west of them, the destroyers had given it up
and come back to us.
Hardly had the party joined up, when we were
astounded to get a signal to say that Scarborough
was being bombarded. This was at about 9 a.m.
To our astonishment we realized that the main
body of the Huns was behind us the whole time, and
at the moment we all felt that this detached party
which we had been chasing east was a ruse to draw
us away from the coast before the bombardment began.
I have never been able to ascertain whether this was
the German plan, but at all events circumstances
worked out in that way.
We were at once ordered by the Lion to alter course
16 points and proceed west at full speed. The situation
seemed simple, and it looked as if the Lord had delivered
them into our hands.
One hundred miles east of the English coast, at about
the latitude of Hartlepool, were the battle-cruisers and
ourselves steaming west at full speed. Eighty miles
east of England and a little to the southward of us
were the Second Battle Squadron and the Third
Cruiser Squadron, also going west.
Twenty miles from the coast of England a layer of
minefields, about ten miles across in an east and west
direction stretched north and south parallel to the
coast. At intervals of 30 to 40 miles up and down
the coast were gaps in the minefields. Somewhere
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 75
between these minefields and England were the
Germans. As far as we knew, there were only two
possible ways through which they could emerge into the
The sea was flat calm, the visibility extreme.
Throughout the ship was the feeling, " Now, my bonnie
Huns, we've got you cold."
During the forenoon we pushed west, straight for
the gaps in the minefields.
At 10.30 a.m. we had news of the Hun, and we
were somewhat " intrigued " to get a signal, " Light
cruisers must penetrate minefields and locate enemy."
Paravanes were a thing of the future, and this order
made our position look rather murky.
The secretary, ever a philosopher, went down into
the waist and selected a wooden door which had been
taken off a certain compartment so that the door should
not be blown in by gun-blast, sat down on the door,
put the catch from " Vacant " to " Engaged," and lit a
pipe. He refused to allow me to share it with him, as
he mistrusted its power of flotation.
We were not sorry to get a signal shortly afterwards
to the effect that light cruisers would not penetrate the
At 11.20 a.m. the situation was looking very interest-
ing. The Huns had been seen leaving the coast and
making for one of the gaps which lay straight ahead of
us. The gap was 5 miles broad. We were just passing
the Second Battle Squadron and Third Cruiser Squad-
ron as the hands were piped to dinner for half an hour.
We went below to the ward-room, leaving brilliant
sunshine on deck.
We rushed up fifteen minutes later at the call of the
alarm bells, to find it was raining hard, blowing freshly,
with increasing force every minute, and a considerable
number of Hun cruisers and destroyers emerging out
of a bank of driving mist scarcely 4 miles away.
76 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
The light-cruisers' screen was spread as usual in
groups of light cruisers about 5 miles apart ahead of
the battle-cruisers. We were the southern group, and
the Lion was about 8 miles on our starboard quarter.
But a quick look round as I ran up to the after-control
revealed nothing except the Birmingham shrouded in
driving mist about 2 miles on our starboard quarter,
bearing down to our support, and the two groups of
Huns, which consisted of three light cruisers and a
dozen destroyers on the starboard bow, and two light
cruisers and an armoured cruiser (the Prinz Adalbert)
and destroyers on the port bow.
We went straight on at 25 knots, head into the sea,
and spray flying over the ship in sheets.
The Huns came straight on, with the sea behind
them and the destroyers bobbing about like corks.
As both the enemy and ourselves approached each
other on opposite courses, it appeared as if we were
about to pass between the two groups of German ships.
In fact, both broadsides were in action for a short
period, but when the group on the starboard side were
bearing about on the bow, they altered course approxi-
mately seven points to starboard and stood across our
bows towards the wakes of the other party, which by
this tune were bearing on our port quarter. To con-
form to this movement, the Birmingham having got
astern of us in support, we altered course to port, and
steered parallel to the two groups of enemy. The
foremost group slowed down, and the Germans then
assumed one long straggling line which extended from
our starboard bow to our starboard quarter, the mean
range being about 6,000 yards. Fragments fell on
board, but they never hit us, which was a poor display
for five ships.
We opened fire with all guns bearing, but the gun-
layers foscame confused at the number of targets and
each gun was firing more or less independently. This,
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 77
added to the fact that owing to the sea and spray the
telescopes were useless and they had to use open sights,
made accurate shooting impossible, and I don't think
we hit any Huns, though we managed to straddle the
armoured cruiser. We were, however, recalled to the
northward, where the Lion was, as any minute the
German battle-cruisers were expected to come out of
the gap, and as we were short of T.B.D.'s the battle-
cruisers wanted light cruisers with them in case they
were attacked by the German destroyers. Half an
hour later we had been in the gap, and to our indes-
cribable rage we had heard that the Second Battle
Squadron and Third Cruiser Squadron had sighted the
German battle-cruisers steaming east at full speed. We
rushed after them, but it was too late. The attached
plan will illustrate the general scheme as to what took
place, though it is not accurately to scale.
Looking back on it all, I think what happened was
The Germans decided to get out along the southern
edge of the gap. They had the amazing luck to get the
sudden storm which in an hour rose to a gale from a
They sent their light cruisers and destroyers out first,
bunched up in two divisions. This was the party we
met. About 5 miles behind them the German battle-
cruisers came along. Now had we proceeded west we
should have run into these big brutes. It may have
been lucky for us, but it was unlucky for our side that
we did not.
We made a signal, " In action with light cruisers,"
when we had our affair ; and as the Lion knew we were
opposite the southern edge of the gap, it seems to me
probable that they assumed we had made contact with
one or two isolated light cruisers which might have been
the southern wing of the German screen, and that they
thought in the Lion that the bulk of the Germans were
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 79
in the minefields to the west hence they called us
north, to concentrate everyone for the expected action
with the German battle-cruisers.
Had this fog not arisen, we should of course have
seen the Hun battle-cruisers behind their light cruisers.
But war would not be what it is if it was not for the
' ' might-have-beens . " It is idle to speculate on ' ' might-
have-beens." If we had been able to destroy the Ger-
man battle-cruiser fleet it might have profoundly
affected the whole course of the war ; then again it might
not have so done. Our failure when at one period
everything had looked so promising was made the more
bitter by the subsequent list of women and children
killed in the bombardment.
In its main object the bombardment failed. The
people of England and the Press were not panicked, and
the Fleet was not dispersed from its strategic position
and distributed in small packets along the east coast.
As an exhibition of Teutonic frightfulness, it may be
held to have succeeded. Its most permanent result was
the stimulus it gave to recruiting.
After the affaire Scarborough we repaired to Crom-
arty, which we were informed was to be our new base.
We were there for only two days, during which time
I went ashore with B , and we discovered a large
sheet of ice on which we slid vigorously until B
precipitated his 15 stone in a sitting position, which
caused ominous cracks to appear, and we left the ice.
That night at 2 a.m. we received orders to get under
way and go round to the Forth. We arrived there
next day, and learnt that we were to form part of the
Battle-cruiser Force which would be based there.
As the war dragged on the Battle-cruiser Force in-
creased in size, and when I left the Southampton in
March 1917 it was very different from what it had been
in December 1914.
In March 1917 the Queen Mary, the Indefatigable, and
80 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
the Invincible were no more, but the Repulse, Renown,
and Courageous stood in their places.
Instead of the one light cruiser squadron in 1914 and
the Third Cruiser Squadron, there were three light
The destroyer flotillas were more numerous, and I
think I am right in saying that every boat was of a
more modern type.
Balloon and seaplane ships were non-existent in 1914
in the Battle-cruiser Force ; in 1917 they were always
Our leader in those days was Sir David Beatty,
(now Earl Beatty) who flew his flag in the Lion.
When we arrived at Rosyth we passed under the
Forth Bridge, and I gazed up in amazement at this
monument of engineering. Many times in the next two
years was I to pass under the bridge, but never did
familiarity lessen the wonder of the thing. The great
bridge, with its perfect proportions and wonderful
span, that seems to be supported as much from above
as from below in its airy flight, became to us the door of
When we were going our people said : " What time
do we pass under the bridge ? "
When we were at sea, and the signal came to return,
it was : " What time do we pass under the bridge ? "
There are hundreds of naval officers to whom crossing
the Forth Bridge in the days to come will be different
from crossing any other bridge.
The fascination of the bridge has lured me from my
We passed the bridge, passed Rosyth dockyard,
which was then very incomplete, and came to anchor
off the village of Charlestown.
The battle-cruisers were anchored between us and the
bridge, and the destroyers above us at Bo 'ness. The
Third Cruiser Squadron were opposite to us across the
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 8l
river on the southern bank, and the old Third Battle-
cruiser Squadron (the King Edward VII class), known
variously as the " Behemoths " or the " Wobbly
Eights," were between us and the battle-cruisers.
I shall have more to say about our home in another
chapter, so will leave further description till then.
We arrived at Rosyth about the 23rd December, and
naturally we all hoped, but did not expect, to be in
harbour on Christmas Day.
Our expectations were fulfilled.
On the 24th a dense fog enveloped the Firth of Forth,
but with much blowing of syrens, shouting through
megaphones, and narrow shaves, we got under way at
II p.m. and crawled out of harbour, under the bridge,
through the boom which had just been fitted, past Inch-
keith, May Island, and so out into the North Sea.
We were supporting an air raid on Cuxhaven.
I scribbled some notes on the first Christmas at sea,
which I have found, and I will quote them.
" Next day (Christmas day), at dawn, we took up
our positions with the battle-cruisers ahead of the
Battle Fleet. The whole Fleet was out, and at B.J.
stations, which means continuous action stations, but
people may go away in driblets for quick meals.
" I spent my Christmas Day from midnight to 4 a.m.
on the bridge, 4-7 a.m. in my bunk, 7 a.m.~4 p.m. boxed
up in my little after-control position, which is a gun-
control station resembling a glorified long bath made of
thin sheet iron, sitting on top of the beef-screen, about
6 feet above the deck, and situated athwartship abaft
the fourth and after-funnel. It has a canvas roof which
leaks abominably. [Note. At the first refit I had this
replaced by an iron one, on which we put a range-finder.]
" Luckily Christmas Day was fine and bright, though
bitterly cold, so I decided to try and celebrate Der Tag
in some form or other.
82 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" Firstly, I managed to get a gramophone up into the
after-control ; my assistant, who in private life, i.e.
when not at action stations, is the clerk, worked this. I
then distributed a hundred cigarettes and chocolate and
toffee to my staff, consisting of one boy and three
" Further, I surreptitiously got up a small arm-chair
for myself and a camp-stool for the clerk, also a small
library, as, owing to the great visibility (about 20 miles),
there was no chance of being caught bending.
" At 10 a.m. I had a brain wave. Why not, I
thought, be generous and distribute music. No sooner
thought than done.
" The telephone to all guns, and the voice-pipes to
the guns, together with the flexible voice-pipe to the
fore-control-top, were all brought as close as possible to
the gramophone, and where possible pushed into the
" The idea worked beautifully, as delighted messages
from various parts of the ship soon testified. The fore-
control, though 50 feet above us and 100 yards away
horizontally, reported that the sounds of music filled
the top. [It occurred to me afterwards that this
scheme would naturally work well, as the microphone
transmitter of a telephone would be very sympathetic
to gramophone notes.] The guns' crews also reported
that they could hear very well.
" C and M solemnly went round the ship at
ii a.m., and presented each officer with a toy. I got
a wooden horse.
" At 3 p.m. the Birmingham, 3 miles from us, re-
ported ' A submarine in sight, close to me.' Almost
simultaneously we sighted a periscope moving through
the water like a shark's fin, about 1,000 yards on our
" A rather uncomfortable five minutes ensued, and I
privately got my swimming collar ready. However,
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 83
nothing untoward took place, and the Battle Fleet got
out of it as quickly as they could.
" A flotilla of destroyers hovered over the spot to
have at them should they appear, but they did not rise
again during the remaining hours of daylight.
" I finished my Christmas Day as I began it, on the
bridge 8-12 p.m. and beastly cold."
Next day we started back to Rosyth. The weather
broke very badly and it blew a gale, which made the
ship roll as much as 40 degrees every now and then.
It was rather tragic, because, as we had been at action
stations all Christmas Day, the mess man had arranged
to postpone a very special lunch from the 25th to the
26th. During lunch the ship rolled so heavily that the
chairs kept on sliding away from the table.
At one very heavy roll half a dozen officers hung on
to the " fiddles " (which are wooden contraptions put
on the table in heavy weather to keep the plates in
position), in an effort to keep their chairs up to the
table. The fiddles were unable to stand the strain, and
one side broke. In a moment all on that side of the
table, together with their chairs, plates, glasses, and
half the lunch, were in a confused heap against the
The return roll made matters worse by precipitating
the whole pot-pourri under the table, where they fetched
up amongst the legs of the people on the opposite side,
who, surprised at this unexpected onslaught, in their
turn let go of the table, and as the ship hung over on
the starboard roll a blasphemous crowd, each trying to
save that portion of the meal which attracted him most,
slid over the soup-covered floor until further progress
was arrested by the sideboard. The navigator and
myself, at opposite ends of the table, and firmly
anchored to it by its legs, derived much amusement
from this exhibition.
84 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Eventually the acrobatic party finished their meal
sitting in upturned arm-chairs wedged into various
angles of the ward-room.
We heard that a submarine had fired at a destroyer
off May Island, in bright moonlight, a couple of hours
before we came along, but we got in at I a.m. without
seeing anything of Fritz.
In the next month we were at sea twice on " set
pieces." The first time we went out for three days in
a gale to do some firing, and the second time we went
out with the battle-cruisers to do a stunt in the Bight :
all we saw were a Zeppelin, a solitary Hun seaplane,
and a number of floating mines. There was, of course,
the usual submarine alarm.
On the 2 ist January I got a birthday present in the
shape of an R.H.S. medal.
On Saturday, 23rd, I traded on being temporarily
a " blue-eyed boy," and got four hours' leave to go to
" the Burgh," that is Edinburgh.
I visited some friends of mine, and was invited to
join a party which was going to the Haymarket Rink
to curl. I had never played this great game before,
and I was delighted to have a chance to learn. Whilst
in the act of frantically " sooping it oop," the General
Officer Commanding in Edinburgh, who was one of my
opponents, informed me that a telephone message had
been received ordering all light-cruiser officers back to
There was a good deal of excitement in Princes Street,
where I managed to get a taxi. I am quite sure that
in half an hour most of the inhabitants of Edinburgh
knew that the Fleet was under sailing orders. Later on
in the war, in fact as a result of experience gained on
this day, the recall was arranged in a more cunning
I got down to Dalmeny, with two strange naval
officers I picked up, in twenty minutes, the taxi-driver
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 85
thoroughly entering into the idea of speed being a
matter of vital national importance, though I dare say
the ten-bob tip we promised him had a certain amount
of influence. I had to wait half an hour on the Hawes
pier before I could get a boat, and whilst I was there
Engineer Captain Taylor, of the battle-cruisers, who
was borne in the Tiger, came up and spoke to me. A
most charming man, he never forgot a cadet who had
passed through his capable hands whilst he had been
Engineer Commander at Dartmouth College. He was
the only officer killed on our side in the action which
took place a few hours later.
Apart from his personal qualities, he was a great loss
to the Service from a professional point of view. The
Battle-cruiser Squadrons, Light Cruiser Squadrons,
Third Cruiser Squadron, and attached destroyers pro-
ceeded to sea after dark, and rumour had it that there
were wigs on the green amongst the staff in the Lion
because the officers had been recalled from Edinburgh
without Sir David's order.
We went to action stations at 6.50 a.m., the disposi-
tion of the Fleet being roughly as follows. On the port
beam of the battle-cruisers the First Light Cruiser
Squadron, astern the Third Cruiser Squadron, and I
think the attached destroyers and their leaders were
between us and the battle-cruisers.
We expected to meet the Harwich force at dawn,
and at that hour the southern horizon was lit by a
number of flashes, and the sound of gun-fire told every-
one that something in the nature of business was to hand.
It appeared that the Arethusa and party had run into
the German battle-cruisers and light cruisers, just about
the spot where they expected to meet us. It was too
dark to see what was happening, and I have never
been quite clear as to this portion of the action. I
remember one of the light cruisers the Aurora was hit.
Coming to more solid facts. As we pushed on at full
86 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
speed daylight made rapid headway, and we saw four
German battle-cruisers which had been steering north
turn 16 points and make off home at full speed. The
sea was of an oily calm, and it was soon evident that
the battle was to lie amongst the engineers as much as
between anyone else.
At 7 a.m. it was fully light, and the whole situation
Imagine a A upside down.
The German battle-cruisers, disposed in starboard-
quarter line, were at the apex, steering an east by south
course for Heligoland. They were preceded by a cloud
of destroyers and light cruisers, who were practically
hull down from us. At the bottom of the right-hand
leg of the A were our own battle-cruisers. Across the
base of the A were many of our destroyers. At the
bottom of the left-hand leg of the A was the First Light
Cruiser Squadron, consisting of the Southampton, Bir-
mingham, Nottingham, and Lowestoft.
We were about 17,000 yards on the port quarter of
the German battle-cruisers, about 14,000 yards on the
port beam of the Lion, which ship was about 18,000
yards fine on the starboard quarter of the Germans.
The visibility was extreme, the day was young, the
Germans were running, everything was favourable pro-
vided we could catch them.
It was then seen that the Germans had a fatal handi-
cap, in that the last ship of their line was the Blucher,
a big armoured cruiser, standing half-way between a
battle-cruiser and an armoured cruiser and barely cap-
able of 26 knots.
She was armed with 8-2-inch guns, and the story
current in the Navy is that this armament was due to
the fact that when our first battle-cruisers were laid
down the Germans stole their plans ; but these plans
were incorrect in that the guns of our ships were marked
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 87
The opposite number to this gun in Krupp's catalogue
is an 8-2-inch, and the Blucher, which was a reply to our
first battle-cruisers, was given this weapon. To the
discomfiture of the Germans, when our first battle-
cruisers were launched, they were found to carry eight
12-inch guns apiece.
Shortly after 7 a.m. all ships had settled down to
what was evidently going to be a stern chase.
There was something uncanny in the spectacle of all
those ships rushing along in two great groups ten miles
apart and not a gun being fired.
Some trawlers appeared right ahead, in a quarter of
an hour they were abreast of us, in another quarter of
an hour they were vanishing out of sight astern.
By 8 a.m. we seemed to have gained slightly on the
enemy, who were evidently adjusting their speed to
that of the Blucher.
At 9 a.m. we had gained appreciably, and a few
minutes later the Lion and Tiger opened a deliberate
fire from their foremost guns. The Princess Royal also
joined in. At the third salvo the Blucher was hit, and
it must have been borne in on her crew that the hour of
their destruction was at hand.
The Germans opened fire in reply at our battle-
cruisers, the range being about 18,000 yards, and after
a time of flight of 20 to 25 seconds, huge splashes rose
up around our leading battle-cruisers, which ships had
begun to draw clear of our slower battle-cruisers of the
There was a marked difference between the appear-
ance of the gun-fire from our ships and the gun-fire from
the enemy. Our guns flashed, whilst from the German
ships each time a gun was fired a ball of flame and
brown smoke seemed to roll comparatively slowly from
The firing was very deliberate and methodical, and
for an hour without much visible result
88 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
To us, it was like sitting in the front row of the dress
circle at a play.
Everyone who could get there crowded to the star-
board side of the boat deck and sat there smoking their
pipes. At about this period one of our destroyers
between us and the battle-cruisers sprinted ahead and
began to catch up the Germans with great rapidity.
He got to within about 10,000 yards, when a salvo from
some disengaged German guns soon caused him to drop
At 10 a.m. a dull red spot appeared amidship on the
Blucher, slowly flared up to the size of a turret, and just
as we were all cheering exultantly, our cheers growing
with the flames, the fire slowly grew less and dis-
appeared, whilst we subsided into disappointed silence.
I remembered that I had not had any breakfast, and
managed to get hold of a banana and some pressed beef.
At 10.15 we na d worked our way to a position
appreciably closer to the Blucher, and whilst I was
watching her I suddenly saw a series of jabs of flame
down her port side. I was at a loss to account for this,
until a moaning noise and a series of splashes on the far
side of us revealed that we were her target.
We at once scuttled out another 1,000 yards, followed
by a line of splashes. It was a battle of giants, and not
suitable for light cruisers. The Lowestoft was hit by a
ricochet, but no damage done.
I remember having a feeling that the Blucher was
behaving rather badly by firing at us, and that we were
not so much participants in the battle as interested and
At 10.30 the Blucher was being badly hit ; repeatedly
fires broke out on board her and were got under again.
She began to gradually drop in position on her consorts,
who were abandoning her to her fate.
Firing was now very lively, and both groups of big
ships were surrounded by splashes.
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 89
At ii a.m. the Blucher stopped, and seeing her do
this, proud ideas of administering the coup de grace
entered our heads. We put the helm over and, fol-
lowed by our squadron, dashed in to 14,000 yards, when,
turning to port, the 6-inch broadsides of four light
cruisers opened fire upon the tormented ship. We
could see our lyddite bursting all over her very plainly,
but she was by no means dead.
Our first group of battle-cruisers, the First Battle-
cruiser Squadron, was passing the Blucher, intent on
catching the Derflinger, Seydlitz, and Moltke, our
Second Battle-cruiser Squadron was slightly astern, and
for the moment the Blucher had only us to attend to.
She had four 8-2-inch left in action on our side, and
with these she opened on us and made some very credit-
able shooting, the splash of one shell falling like a
cataract on the side of our quarter-deck.
Furthermore, she pulled herself together for a last
effort, and, smoking and burning in a dozen places, she
got under control again and staggered along at about
20 knots. Beyond her our battle-cruisers spread out
in chase, foamed forward, firing steadily at the flying
Germans. We were able to tell the Tiger by wireless
that her shot were falling over.
A Zeppelin had appeared at 10.30, and hung like a
silver sausage between the two fleets. He cruised over
towards us, but we fired our forecastle 6-inch with
extreme elevation and a time-fused shrapnel at him,
and he ponderously turned round and made off.
As we saw that the Indomitable was just about to
come up with the Blucher, we resumed the main chase.
Two of the three remaining German battle-cruisers
had big fires on board, but they were still steaming
steadily and firing with vigour.
At this juncture we were somewhat surprised to see
the Tiger and Princess Royal turn round and come back
towards the Blucher. A hail of shell was poured into
QO NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
the doomed ship, which as we passed her once more
stopped and, evidently no longer under control, began
to wander very slowly from south-east to north-east.
We were still following the other Germans, not under-
standing what had happened, and as we passed to the
southward the Tiger suddenly advanced on the Bliicher,
steaming full speed and firing furiously. Again and
again the Bliicher was hit. I saw a shell burst against
her foretop, and another obliterated her foremost
It seemed amazing to think that human beings could
be in that hell. Clouds of grey smoke were pouring
from inside her, and in places her very hull seemed to
glow with a red heat. Once more she fired, a last wild
shot, and then utter silence as the Tiger ceased fire.
We followed the Germans for perhaps a quarter of an
hour, when we noticed that we were rapidly becoming
the sole British occupants of the stage. Rather be-
wildered, we turned 16 points and hurried back to
where we had last seen the Bliicher. We found she had
been sunk by a torpedo from the Arethusa, and the
latter ship together with some destroyers was picking
We were approaching to assist, when we were sur-
prised to see a line of splashes stand up one after the
other on the sea. The general direction of the splashes
was across the large oily pool which marked the last
resting place of the Bliicher. A whirring noise made
everyone look up, and we saw the ugly snout of the old
Zeppelin slipping along between low-lying clouds.
Our Commodore, who was the senior officer present,
directed all ships to clear out at once ; and we were
obliged to leave a number of Germans swimming in the
North Sea. In those days we regretted this consider-
ably, for the Bliicher had put up a stout fight against
heavy odds, which we admired.
Getting under way, we proceeded north and heard for
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK QI
the first time that the Lion had been damaged by a
plunging shot and was in difficulties.
We soon overtook her, with a nasty list to port, in
tow of, I think, the Indomitable. En passant, it may be
a matter of curiosity to some to know why the Zepp
bombed us when we were picking up survivors, an act
which infuriated the Germans we did save, who kept on
making two remarks in the King Edward VII, to which
ship they were transferred on arrival at Rosyth. One
remark was :
" That cursed Zeppelin " ; the other was, " My God,
how you will burn ! " on seeing the woodwork in the
King Edward's ward-room. They had had some ex-
perience of fires, the survivors of the Blticher !
However, to get back to the Zepp.
All British capital ships are fitted with tripod masts,
and one German ship was so fitted, this was the Blucher.
The Zepp had seen the Lion fall out of the line, and
soon afterwards, from a distance, she had seen a ship
with tripod masts sink. Putting two and two together
and making five, she had planted some bombs on what
she imagined to be the Lion's rescue party. Doubtless
the idea that we should waste our time rescuing our
enemies never entered the mind of the fool in command
of the Zepp.
The above theory would also account for the per-
sistent manner in which the German Admiralty, doubt-
less acting on the evidence of the only witness they had,
that is the Zepp commander, repeated the statement
that the Lion had sunk.
Though the action was over at noon and the surface
of the sea was devoid of Germans, our anxieties were
by no means over. The great question in all minds
was, " What is the state of the Lion ? Can she
stick it ? "
Luckily the weather was perfect, which gave her
every chance. There were only about eleven men
92 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
killed in the Lion, and four men killed and one officer
(Engineer Captain Taylor) in the Tiger, also a few
wounded in each ship.
At 3 p.m. we gathered round the wounded Lion, Sir
David Beatty having transferred his flag to the Princess
Royal as soon as the Lion fell out, he having made the
passage in a destroyer.
Slowly the procession crawled north at about 7 knots.
The day was succeeded by the night, but it brought
little relief, as there was a bright moon. The Second
Light Cruiser Squadron, ourselves, and forty-eight
destroyers ringed her round.
Altogether an uncomfortable night, especially as we
received information that enemy submarines were
chasing us on the surface though I hardly think this
can have been correct, as I believe the Germans really
thought the Lion had been sunk.
On the 25th of January, tugs met the Lion, and the
rest of us swept south to see if anyone was following us.
There were no jackals in the Lion's footsteps.
We received two good signals on the night of the
25th. One was that the Lion had got into Rosyth at
2 a.m., and the other was a congratulatory message from
On the morning of the 26th we entered Rosyth and
passed close to the Lion. There was little sign of ex-
Thus ended the first action between ships of the
To those who are interested in the study of war, and
to naval officers, one of the great problems of this
action is in the question as to why action was broken
off at the moment it was. Many stories are in circula-
tion, but until the facts are revealed no sound judgment
can be formed, and it would be useless and improper to
repeat what to a large degree can only be described as
SCARBOROUGH AND DOGGER BANK 93
There is one fact about the action which deserves
mention, for it is not a very generally realized fact, and
that is that during practically all the forenoon our battle-
cruisers were open to torpedo attack from the stern
tubes of the German ships. The risk of this had to be,
and was, accepted.
As regards the German conduct of the action, for the
personal conduct of those in the Bliicher I have nothing
but praise. They fought their ship till she sank be-
neath them : no man can do more. But I do not con-
sider that Hipper, who I believe was in command, did
well. With a Zeppelin at his disposal, he must have
known exactly what he was up against, and I consider
that the Bliicher was prematurely abandoned, and
another hour might have saved her.
Furthermore, his tactical position, on the port bow
of our heavy ships, was ideal from the point of view of
torpedo attack, and by sacrificing half a dozen de-
stroyers he would have sensibly relieved if not saved
the Bliicher and stood a very good chance of getting one
of our people.
At the beginning of the action, had the Moltke,
Seydlitz, and Derflinger placed themselves astern of
the Bliicher, they could have put up an equal fight
against our leading battle-cruisers, whilst the Bliicher,
unfired at, would have kept up a steady 26 to 27 knots.
We were in harbour for three days, and I had man-
aged to see my friends in Edinburgh, when we went off
at i a.m. to do an air raid in the Bight, but the weather
broke badly and drove us in.
At the beginning of February 1915 the Nottingham
and ourselves went to Newcastle to be fitted with
3-inch aerial guns.
We enjoyed the fleshpots of Egypt in that city, and
very nice they were too, for six days, and on the nth
we were back off Charlestown village.
THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR
BY the beginning of 1915 a distinct change had begun
to take place in the character of the war in the North
Sea, at least as regards surface ships. The policy of
large ships, such as battle-cruisers and battleships,
cruising about on the chance of seeing something was
the first thing to be abandoned. Still the light cruisers
were employed in patrolling " areas " and sweeping
portions of the North Sea. By the term " sweeping "
I do not, of course, mean mine-sweeping.
But it was not long ere this method of using the
scouting forces of the Grand Fleet fell into disfavour.
It was evident in the spring of 1915 that ships went to
sea for three reasons.
(1) To intercept, or bring to action, blockade runners
or enemy ships whose presence was known or
(2) To carry out an offensive operation, in so far as
the strategical situation ever offered us scope
for such operations.
(3) For exercise.
If none of these three reasons was valid, the ships
were in harbour.
Being in harbour did not mean going ashore, for this
pleasure was only possible, and then as far as light
cruisers were concerned with many limitations, when
the ships were at more than two and a half hours'
notice for steam.
The policy outlined above as opposed to being at sea,
on general principles, came into being for the following
THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR 95
It became obvious that the Germans were not going
to come out in the North Sea without a very definite
object in the " operations " line ; and secondly, the
presence of submarines and mines in the North Sea
tended to make it an unhealthy place in which to cruise
for the mere sake of cruising.
The year 1915 was not marked by an action of any
size, but a great many operations of various kinds were
carried out, in most of which, if not in all, the Southamp-
ton and most of her squadron participated. These
operations were of three kinds.
The first kind, known as a " stunt," either good or
bad, was an operation in which we went over to the
other side, and in which, from the position of the Fleet
and the fact that we were at action stations, it required
no inside knowledge on the part of an observer for him
to deduce that the powers that be thought that there
was a sporting chance of meeting something.
A " stunt " lasted from three to five days, and was
usually preceded by a " flap " or " panic."
I hope no one will conjure up a vision of the British
Navy in a state of nerves because an order had arrived
ordering us to sea.
A " panic " was different from that. A typical
" panic " was something like this.
The hour would be 9 p.m., the ship at four hours'
notice ; and everyone at that hour was usually in the
ward-room engaged in playing cards, talking shop,
arguing, or perhaps making arrangements to go ashore
This pleasant scene would be interrupted by the
arrival of a signal boy with a cipher signal for the
secretary. The latter would at once disappear to
decipher it. During his absence, the only subject of
conversation would be, " Is it a flap ? "
The secretary would return looking very important
and whisper to the Commander. The latter, catching
g6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
the air of mystery, would whisper to the Engineer-
Commander. By this time everyone had guessed we
were off. The watch-keeping lieutenants would at once
embark on an acrid dispute as to who, if we weighed
at i a.m., ought to keep the middle watch.
The two doctors and the paymaster and his assistant
would have a similar bicker as to who should keep the
morning decoding watch.
Meanwhile on the mess-decks everything was pur-
poseful confusion. Stokers struggled to get below to
the boiler rooms. Seamen struggled to get up the
hatch and fall in on deck. The electric-light party
scooted about with shaded lights. The gunnery lieu-
tenant crept about on the forecastle, tripping up over
cables as he made preparations to weigh.
The Commander damned everyone impartially, in-
cluding himself ; this latter effort because he had been
tempted by the fine night and had not hoisted the
steam-boat at dusk, and now it had to be hoisted in
the dark and in a hurry.
Ready use ammunition stowed below in harbour had
to be got up. Ah 1 boats had to be secured for sea,
provisioned, and turned in.
Probably an official mail had to be sent over to some
ship that was not going out.
Berthing rails had to be taken down and life-lines
rove. The accommodation ladder had to be got in.
Rumbling noises from aft and the clanging of bells
indicated that the engineers were trying the steering
engine and the telegraphs.
All these things and many others had to be done,
and done quickly, before the ship could go to sea.
Hence the term " panic " or " flap."
Although in theory we were entitled to claim four
hours' notice if a signal came, " Raise steam with all
despatch and report when you are ready to proceed,"
we should have felt ashamed of ourselves, and so would
THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR 97
any other light cruiser, if we were not ready in two
hours at the outside.
This ability of the engineers, i.e. to raise steam from
cold boilers to " full pressure " in half the time they
were supposed to need, was often a nuisance when a
" panic " took place in the afternoon and one was
ashore. I always felt that, instead of having four hours
up my sleeve, I only had about an hour and a half.
So much for the " panics " that usually preceded
" stunts." The second kind of operations, viz. those in
which we proceeded out to try and get at the inacces-
sible Hun, were chiefly air-raid parties on the Zepp
sheds at Tondern, mine-laying parties in the region of
the Bight, or " lucky dips " into the bran-tub of the
Skajerack or up the Norwegian coast to try and pick
up a few Hun patrols and un-neutral shipping.
Then there were the trips when we went out and
steered steadily north till we reached the Grand Fleet's
front garden, between the Shetlands, Iceland, and the
grim Norwegian coast deep cut with fjords and dented
by the eternal succession of Atlantic gales. Here,
beneath the lace light of the Northern Lights, we
P.Z'ded, and did other tactical exercises, playing with
our big brothers the battleships and coming under the
critical eye of J. J. in the Iron Duke.
Here we dropped targets and scouted around on the
lookout for stray submarines, whilst the thunder of 13-5-
inch and 12-inch broadsides rolled round the horizon.
There was a fascination about those northern lati-
tudes which to me remained ever great. It seemed
always either wonderfully calm or monstrously rough.
When it was calm and clear, the visibility was wonder-
ful. The air was clean and cool like mountain water,
the sea was leaden coloured and lifeless, generally
wrinkled by a gentle wind that seemed to flow along
breathing the spirit of the North the spirit of great
open spaces, of monotonous desolation, of the top of the
98 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
world. The loneliness of it all was fascinating. At
night the stars shone with a purity I had never seen
before they were like fine diamonds on black velvet
and round the semicircle from east through north to
west the Northern Lights rose and fell, flickered and
flamed, and wove strange patterns in space.
I realize just a little why men risk death at the two
ends of the earth, and having been spared once, go again
and again to serve this mistress, whose arms are the ice
and whose breast is the snow.
And when it was rough, it blew with the violence of
despair. Rain squalls, snow squalls, and banks of fog
succeeded each other like waves of attacking infantry.
The long North Atlantic rollers swept round from New-
foundland to hurl themselves in a cataract of foam on
the rock-bound coasts of the Northern Isles ; others,
passing to the north, spent their forces on the Lofoten
Islands and the Norge coast.
I hated rough weather, I hated the sickening, never-
ending alternation between the roll and the pitch,
though when I was alone on the bridge and had settled
down, wedged between the compass and the bridge
screen for a four-hour watch, there came a feeling of
exultation in watching the waves break on to the fore-
castle, and then to feel the little ship lift her bows and
throw a hundred tons of Atlantic whence it came. It
was good to feel in charge of the handiwork of man
that could defy such weather.
Then, in addition to these trips there were many odd
jobs that fell to the lot of the light cruiser. Chief and
most hated of these was a thing called the D.N.P.
those letters stood for Dark Night Patrol. Every night
when there was no moon a light cruiser and two
destroyers left Rosyth two hours before sunset and
cruised out to the eastward of the May Island, and re-
turned to coal two hours after sunrise.
THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR 99
This was to guard against mine-laying off the port.
How many Battle-cruiser Force and Light-cruiser folk
have not joined me in singing
" So blow up your Giever ! Come fill up your flask !
You've had time for luncheon, what more do ye ask ?
So open the Outer Gate, let us gae free,
The signal is flying, ' Light Cruisers to Sea.' "
Most boring and hateful of all operations was the
D.N.P. When London cursed the moon, we blessed it.
To quote in detail and enumerate all the trips we
made in 1915 would be a monotonous business, and I
have no record of many, as so often they were devoid
of all interest one simply remembered " it blew " or " it
didn't blow " ; but I kept a few rough notes of some of
these trips, and I will quote a little from them.
" Feb. 18, 1915. At sea with destroyers ; we saw
nothing, and returned to base on 2ist coaled ship 500
tons and averaged 162 per hour, which was good.
" We have now become the Second Light Cruiser
Squadron ; the new First Light Cruiser Squadron are
Galatea, Inconstant, Cordelia, etc.
" Feb. 27, 1915. His Majesty the King paid the port
a surprise visit. We were one of the ships honoured,
and all the officers were presented to His Majesty.
" Feb. 28, 1915. I shipped my second stripe a great
" March 3, 1915. All the Battle-cruiser Squadron,
First, Second, and Third Light Cruiser Squadrons, went
out and did several days' combined exercises in very
unpleasant weather. We saw and destroyed some
floating mines. On our way in, we coincided with a
submarine, and the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla went out
to hunt him.
" At i p.m. on the I2th we heard the Ariel had bagged
" March 25, 1915. Up at Scapa for gunnery and
IOO NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
torpedo exercises. As a place to sojourn in, with its
absolute lack of civilization, barren scenery, and wind-
swept aspect, it is, in my opinion, ' the limit.'
" When I compare it with our pleasant existence at
Charlestown the contrast is striking. However, the
fellows in the Battle Fleet get accustomed to living on
board, and never trouble to go ashore for months at a
time, and some of them speak of Scapa with affection
as being a nice quiet place.
" March 27, 1915. At 7 a.m. I went away in a
drifter in charge of a large target which cavorted about
astern. We crawled out into the middle of the Flow.
It was raining hard and there was a choppy sea most
unpleasant. The climax came at half -past ten, when
the target capsized just as the ship was going to open
" We were ordered to approach the ship. A painful
scene ensued as the commander, about three lieutenants,
and a couple of hundred men wrestled with the capsized
target alongside the ship. I was vigorously damned
" (a) The target had capsized.
" (6) I was slow getting back.
' (c) I couldn't get the drifter to perform the im-
possibility of remaining broadside on to the
sea and wind.
" (d) Because I was an adjectival young fool.
" Anyone who has been away with a large target and
had trouble and does one ever not have trouble ?
will know exactly what I mean. However, the only
thing to do is to sing out ' Aye ! Aye ! sir ' at regular
intervals and endeavour to look worried.
" In the afternoon there was a ' panic/ and the whole
Fleet went out in a hurry. At 4 a.m., when I went on
the bridge, the stunt had fizzled out, and we returned
to Scapa at 7 a.m. and coaled in a heavy snowstorm.
" April i, 1915. Left Scapa and rattled down to
THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR 101
Rosyth at 20 knots. Very pleasant getting to our
proper base again.
" April 5, 1915. Proceeded to our old stamping-
ground. As soon as we got to the exercise ground, a
gale started. Various intercepted wireless messages
revealed that the ' Wobbly Eights ' and ' Sea Cows '
(Third Battle Squadron and Third Cruiser Squadron)
were staggering in again, as weather was so bad.
" We waited in vain for a signal that light cruisers
could return. We were required for screening the
" We spent most of our time plunging into it at 20
knots to get into station on big brutes of battle-cruisers
doing 17 knots and going through the sea like sub-
merged rocks. I believe their bridges are so high up
that they are too far off to see how rough it is. We are
low enough to feel it when a wave-top hops from the
forecastle up to the fore-bridge.
" The gale blew out in the night, and next day was
spent in going farther north. That night we spread out
in wide lines between Norway and the Shetlands and
did night firing.
" A tramp steamer bound for America foolishly
crossed the line of fire, and a few shells whistled harm-
lessly over her. [Hence the tale a fortnight later of a great
battle in the North Sea, and accounts in the German
Press of the British Fleet firing into each other at night.]
" Early in the morning we started south. One of our
armed liners made a fool of herself by sending a wireless
message to say she was being chased west by a large
ship. Two of our squadron were detailed off to go and
help her, and they turned north again.
" Daylight dawned, and they were well on their way
to the North Pole, having seen nothing, when it trans-
pired that the ' large strange ship ' was the New York
to Bergen mail-steamer. We did another P.Z., and at
noon received orders to return to base.
IO2 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" It at once began to blow like Hades, and we got back
at i a.m. in the teeth of a westerly gale on gih April.
" We should not mind a week's rest. No such luck.
They say there is no rest for the wicked, and I think the
Battle-cruiser Force must be very sinful, for to-day,
nth April, 1915, we are out again, having left for the
East at 10 p.m.
" April 14, 1915. A glorious day. We are zig-
zagging along at 28 knots, and are due to reach May
Island at 3 a.m.
" On leaving May Island on I2th at 2 a.m. we steered
due east until we were two-thirds of the way across to
" We had hopes of something happening, as one
always did have when the war was young and we
thought the Germans had enterprise.
" The first day out we remained in touch with the
battle-cruisers, and we all hoped that dawn would find
us at action stations. Nothing of the sort, for we
steamed about in glorious weather at 20 knots, with full
speed at one hour's notice.
" The bureaux were baffled."
Perhaps a few words as to what Les Bureaux were
would not be out of place.
This was a war-time amusement, played by the
engineer commander, the torpedo lieutenant, the gun-
nery lieutenant, the engineer lieutenant, and the sub
and myself, on one side ; the secretary, the flag com-
mander, and the flag lieutenant, on the other side. We
represented Les Bureaux; they were the Mystery
My bureau, known as the Q Bureau, was by universal
consent the oldest established and most efficient, and
was considered to compare very favourably with the
infamous Wolff Bureau.
The object of the bureaux was to combat undue
THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR 103
secrecy on the part of the Mystery Priests, and our
motto was " L 'Union fait la force " ; that is to say, each
bureau, working separately, collected little bits of
evidence, and then, at a general meeting, those isolated
facts were pieced together. Having got a story
together, the next move in the game was to announce
in the Mess, in the presence of one or more of the
Mystery Priests, that the Q Bureau begged to
announce to all subscribers that the XYZ Squadron
having returned to base through bad weather, the con-
templated operation was off, and it was estimated
we should return to base at 6 p.m. We became very
expert at partly guessing and partly deducing the
affairs of the day, and we were thus able to pull the legs
of the priests with much success.
As the war proceeded, all the useless secrecy was
dropped, and it was realized that once the ship was at
sea it was quite safe to explain to officers why she was
there and when she would get back, and so the bureaux
died a natural death.
On this particular stunt of which I am writing the
bureaux were baffled. Ah 1 attempts to pump the
Mystery Priests were in vain, until the Q Bureau
evolved the startling theory that the mystery men
themselves did not know why we were out.
They made a brave effort to conceal their ignorance,
but on the second day out they broke down entirely and
admitted frankly that they had not got the slightest
idea as to why we were out. The strange spectacle was
then seen of the men of mystery and the bureaux sitting
together in the smoking-room, engaged in continuous
On the third day out we caught a far-off glimpse of
the serried lines of the Battle Fleet. Also on this day
submarines began to be reported round us, one being
seen by the Roxburgh and one by the Lion, though
when I looked up the signalled position of this latter
104 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Fritz, I remembered that we had passed through a shoal
of porpoises about an hour previously on that spot.
" April 22, 1915. Prepared for sea in the dog-
watches, and every indication of going out.
" Met old Secret Harry (Secret-ary) and hazarded
opinion that departure was imminent. True to the
traditions of his race, he endeavoured to deny this.
" I then told him that as all the stokers had just been
ordered below and were raising steam as hard as they
could, I imagined this was to practise them in shovelling,
on the same principle as loading drill for a gun's crew.
He got quite peevish, so we had a drink together and
then laboured amicably on the next number of the
Southampton Echo, vol. ii.
" Slipped out at 9.15 p.m. ; went over towards Horns
Reef in beautiful weather ; passed through the usual
line of Dutch trawlers, and kept a sharp lookout for
pigeons. We all suspect this party ; they always seem
to be fishing in a patrol line across the approaches to
" April 23, 1915. Passed a Norwegian sailing-ship
burning furiously ; she had evidently been caught by a
Fritz a few hours previously. We saw no sign of any
survivors or Fritzes.
" Did a P.Z. and returned home.
" April 24, 1915. Amazing day ! We've been
given twenty-four hours' stand off. The engineers are
delighted, as we have done 5,000 miles at high speed
" S. A. and myself push-biked to Loch Leven, and
we gorged with trout from the lake. It was delicious
getting away from the war.
" May 6, 1915. Back at Rosyth. We have been lying
for days at two and a half hours' notice, which means
that one can land for an hour or so in sight of the ship.
" May 31, 1915. The whole party went to sea a
THE ORDINARY ROUTINE OF WAR 105
" June 1915. Our squadron have had a slightly
unpleasant job during this month. We have been
going out in groups of two light cruisers to do it.
" There is a big minefield in the middle of the North
Sea that our little sweepers from Aberdeen are sweeping.
" We go out and guard them by cruising about
between them and the Bight. I always felt how very
uncomfortable I should be if a couple of German battle-
cruisers popped up over the southern horizon.
" After three days the sweeping gunboats returned to
coal. The poor little devils looked singularly helpless
toddling back at 12 knots, whilst we kicked off to our
base at 22.
" Also during this month we went up to the extreme
north and played with the Grand Fleet. It was prac-
tically broad daylight at midnight, but the temperature
fell to 40 F.
" When we got back from the expedition, two of our
squadron the Nottingham and Birmingham and the
' Sea Cows ' (Third Cruiser Squadron) went over to try
and catch an armed German steamer called the Meteor,
which has had the cheek to prey on commerce off the
" Our party seems to have ' bought it/ as when they
got over there the place was a kind of congeries of U.-
boats, torpedoes, and periscopes all over the place. The
Roxburgh was hit once, and would have been hit three
times had she not been splendidly handled. As far as
I can make out, every ship had at least one torpedo
fired at her.
" The Roxburgh was hit right forward, and the bot-
tom of her cable locker more or less disappeared. This
might have led to a very awkward situation, as the
inboard end of 15 shackles (about 400 yards) of cable
might have fallen out through the hole. This would
practically have anchored the ship through her keel !
I understand that with great foresight her commander
IO6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
had foreseen this contingency, and he had caused the
cable to be unshackled so that the whole lot could fall
" From this day onwards we are always going to
arrange ours like that ! It would be too fearful to be
helplessly anchored whilst a Fritz potted the ship.
" The Roxburgh got in safely at 14 knots. Altogether
a disappointing day for the party from the Hunneries,
and a lucky one for us.
" June 25, 1915. The Commander suddenly decided
to inaugurate a spit and polish campaign.
" I thought he had been looking bored. He chased
all the lieutenants quite in his peace-time manner, in
fact more so, as this pastime had regained its novelty
" We talked frightful mutiny every evening in one
of our cabins, and made arrangements to avoid being
hunted. However, he is diabolically clever at getting
at us a trait we rather admire.
" Various dull trips, and about the end of July battle-
cruisers and light cruisers made a sweep over to Skaje-
rack to bag German patrol trawlers. Unfortunately
the weather broke as soon as we got over, and whilst the
First Light Cruiser Squadron (Commodore Sinclair) and
destroyers dashed into the Skajerack snorting defiance,
we cruised on the Naze-Hantshohn line in case the
German battle-cruisers came round from the Hunneries
by the Horns Reef route.
" The Huns, like sensible fellows, had decided that it
was no weather for gentlemen, and stayed at home.
" The First Light Cruiser Squadron got one patrol
boat. The survivors expressed great pleasure at being
captured, as they were due to be called up for the
Landsturm in September. They said that the other
thirty-nine patrol boats had gone in owing to bad
" And so back to base very sea-sick."
MORE ROUTINE OF WAR
"AUGUST 8, 1915. Real old-fashioned 'flap' last
night, as a ' raise steam with all despatch ' arrived at
9 p.m. just as I was doing good business at a game of
chance in the mess.
"At 12 midnight, crowds of destroyers came down
the river and got well mixed up with us just as the
squadron was weighing.
" Wonderful language floated about through mega-
phone. First Light Cruiser Squadron and ourselves
got clear of Rosyth at i a.m.
" It appears that our old friend the Meteor, fitted as
a mine-layer, and supposed to be capable of only 14
knots, has ambled over to Kinnaird Head, sunk an
armed boarding steamer called the Ramsey, and laid a
minefield off Cromarty.
" We are off to catch her.
" The tea-party consists of Commodore (T ) and
destroyers from Harwich, First Light Cruiser Squadron
and ourselves from Rosyth, and the Royalist and Co.
" August 9. We all dashed across the North Sea,
converging on Heligoland, and at 5 p.m. we were very
annoyed to receive a W/T signal from Whitehall to say
that if we had not found her we were to go back, as we
were then getting fairly close to the Bight and none of
our heavy ships were out with us. Fortunately at this
moment the Arethusa sighted the Meteor, which ship
blew herself up, the Huns escaping in a trawler. The
appearance of a Zepp and his proximity to the Hunneries
108 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
decided Commodore (T ) not to waste time trying
to chase the Huns, who were making off in the trawler.
" The Huns behaved very well to the survivors of the
Ramsey whom they had on board, as before abandon-
ing the Meteor they gave them some money and placed
them in a Swedish trawler.
" I understand the Commander-in-Chief is causing
this money to be returned to the German officer con-
cerned, through a neutral embassy.
" August 17. Up at lat. 64 N. doing a shooting
party with the battle-cruisers.
" August 21. We arrived at Scapa to pass the time
of the day with the Grand Fleet.
" On the way on to Scapa I was on watch and was
suddenly filled with a feeling that a man would fall
overboard at a certain place I could see ahead.
" I ordered everyone off the forecastle, where some
hands were getting the anchors ready, and told the
people on the bridge to have lifebuoys ready. This
behaviour on my part made the navigator look at
me and say, ' What on earth's the matter with
you ? '
" I felt I couldn't explain, and still less when we
passed the place and nothing happened. I felt an ass ;
but a minute or two later the next two ships astern of
us each lost one man overboard as they passed the
" Then I explained my actions. I have only once
had a similar experience, as I ' felt ' Jutland, only not
nearly so strongly.
" The War spite and other new arrivals were there.
The weather here is beastly rain and drifting mist.
" Sept. 13, 1915. On our arrival back at Rosyth
after a rough passage in which we had to make a large
detour to the eastwards to avoid minefields, we found
the atmosphere distinctly electric, as we were frequently
at short notice for considerable periods.
MORE ROUTINE OF WAR IOQ
" We also went out to search for a somewhat mythical
mine-layer though another theory popular in the
smoking-room was that we were sent to sea to impress
the idea of ceaseless naval activity upon a party of
distinguished Frenchmen who were in the port, for we
went out in daylight under their noses and the Third
Light Cruiser Squadron came in at the same time ;
they had been out only twelve hours after a stay in
harbour of several weeks.
" Sept. 26. Last week we all went out on a job of
work. At the last moment, just as the squadron was
sailing, we developed a leaky condenser, so the Com-
modore and staff were hastily transferred to the
Birmingham. We were all right by 7.30 a.m., and by
steaming hard we caught up the Battle-cruiser Force
at 5 p.m. Next day we were all in a position 40 miles
or so north-by-west of Horns Reef at 3 a.m. To the
south-eastward of us we could see the Harwich forces of
light cruisers and destroyers, and inside them were
several of our large mine-layers, who were engaged in
laying a large field to harass German submarines going
to and from the Bight.
' To our astonishment and pleasure we were not seen
by Zepps ; it was such a lovely morning we felt certain
one or two would be out, but everything was very quiet,
and at 5 a.m. we all came home fairly certain and rather
surprised that we had laid our mines unobserved. We
had perfect weather for the trip."
I suppose it is a very fine sight to see the Battle-
cruiser Fleet at sea on a clear day. I have seen it so
often that it tends to become commonplace, but I will
describe what it looked like from our bridge on the
It was thus
Eight miles away from us, and on our port quarter,
seven battle-cruisers were silhouetted against the sky.
From each of these great ships a graceful plume of
110 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
smoke rose like a dusky feather. As they zig-zagged
about once every ten minutes, the sunlight reflected on
their sides, and they appeared to change colour as they
On one tack they gleamed bright and silvery, on the
other tack they appeared as if painted black. A stab
of white rising up their rams, and a blob of white in
their wakes, contrasted vividly with the deep blue of the
sea and sky, and was an indication to the trained eye
that these ships were moving at more than 20 knots.
They moved in two lines, and at the head of each line
and around each line were dotted small black smudges
which appeared to be stationary relative to the battle-
cruisers. From these black smudges a puff of smoke
occasionally shot up into the air. These smudges were
the destroyers of the submarine screen.
All oil-fuel boats, they were normally smokeless, the
intermittent puffs indicating momentary carelessness
on the part of a stoker manipulating the air-inlet baffle-
plates on their boilers. Turning to ourselves, the ever-
faithful Birmingham (Captain Duff) zig-zagged in our
wake about 400 to 600 yards away. Through glasses I
could see the familiar figures on her bridge.
Five miles away on our starboard beam the Notting-
ham and Lowestoft formed a little group, completing
our squadron and rounding off the starboard end of the
light-cruiser screen which protected the battle-cruisers
Five and 10 miles away on the port beam were two
similar units of the Third Light Cruiser Squadron,
delicately outlined in pearl-grey.
Fifteen miles away I could just detect the raking
masts of two light cruisers of the First Light Cruiser
Squadron, whose hulls were below the horizon.
I know that 20 and 25 miles away along the imagin-
ary line were other light cruisers.
Thus we moved along.
MORE ROUTINE OF WAR III
At intervals a flash of light would start winking on
the Lion, to be repeated to the right and left by the
Chatham, the centre light cruiser. As soon as we had
all got the signal, the Lion would wink with her search-
light for ten seconds and the signal to alter course and
speed would be obeyed.
When it grew dusk, the light cruisers closed in and
became three lines, each ship following the pale blue
stern light and shadowy form of the next ahead.
At dawn the three lines opened out like a fan and
the screen was respread.
Such was the British Cruiser Force at sea.
" October. Returned from a fruitless stunt ; had
rather a job getting out of the base for this trip."
Getting out of Rosyth at night is no pleasure trip for
navigators nor is getting in.
The shape of the harbour renders it obligatory for
ships at the western end who wish to get out, to
thread their way between the lines of battleships (King
Edward VII class) and battle-cruisers. The battle-
cruisers have bought up the eastern end of the harbour
and are as close to Queensferry as they can get. The
" Behemoths " (Third Battle Squadron) and " Sea
Cows " (Third Cruiser Squadron) occupy the centre
position, then come two lines of light cruisers.
Lastly, away at Bo 'ness, amidst a welter of colliers,
store-ships, oil-tankers, provision ships, and other
Fleet auxiliaries, lie the bulk of the destroyers ; the
emergency boats lie at instant notice at buoys near the
When the destroyers are coming out with us, they
frequently stop amongst our squadron just as we are
shortening in. We then send them their operation
orders in a borrowed motor-boat, as of course all our
own boats are hoisted, turned in, and secured for sea.
Last time we did this the proceedings were very
typical of what happens.
112 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Imagine a pitch-dark night, raining persistently and
with maddening Scotch penetration. Our four cruisers,
without lights, were just aweigh, and struggling to get
into line for leaving harbour. Suddenly four destroyers
arrived on the scene, going about 10 knots, and
apparently under the impression that we were about a
mile farther down the harbour.
Much shouting through megaphones as they all go
full speed astern, only to lie inert about 30 yards off
our slowly moving ram. A galaxy of signalling,
megaphoning, bad language, and narrow shaves.
During this performance the Galatea's motor-boat, of
which we had the loan, was twisting and turning like a
snipe amongst the moving ships in an endeavour to
deliver his despatches. He had left the Galatea in such
a hurry that the coxswain had left his navigation lights
behind him, and, fearful of being run down, he was
making a continuous screeching noise in his Klaxon
It was like a cock-pheasant gone mad.
We got into line and fox-trotted down the harbour,
in and out between the big ships. Smoothly we passed
under the bridge and counted our chickens (three
cruisers and four destroyers all correct) as we ap-
proached the outer gate in the first boom, which was
just opening to allow a destroyer in.
To avoid all misunderstandings, for destroyers at
night are kittle cattle, we switched on our navigation
lights for a few seconds.
Then we led our line through the narrow opening.
As we increased to 20 knots, the shore lights of Leith
and the Fife coast slid past in a long procession, a
breeze sprang up from the north-east and chilled the
cheek, the lookouts crouched down behind the bridge-
screens, and the guns' crews huddled into the gun-
May Island winked its last farewell to us and, with
MORE ROUTINE OF WAR 113
the spray lightly showering on to our forecastle and a
bright phosphorescent wake astern, we passed out into
the North Sea the sea of derelicts, mines, strangely
painted neutrals, submarines, and the monotony of
Soon after this trip we went to Newcastle to refit,
and we were given ten days' leave.
After a glowing account of London, I noted that
" The leave, alas ! soon came to an end. We had a
stormy trip from Newcastle to Rosyth, and it shook our
beach-accustomed insides very unpleasantly. Once
back at Rosyth the old routine soon gripped us, the
accursed dark night patrol idea going full bore."
A quiet month followed, during which the Argyll
was lost on the Bell Rock and we ourselves had a small
adventure coming in from a sweep.
It was a thick night, and we were steaming 20 knots.
At 9 p.m. we knew that we must be somewhere near
the entrance, but as owing to bad weather the navigator
had not been able to get any sights for forty-eight
hours, we were a bit vague as to our exact position.
We were anxiously looking in every direction for the
very feeble " war-light " which it was the habit of May
Island to show, when without any warning a series of
calcium lights went up all round us.
We had got right inside May Island, which is plumb
in the middle of the entrance to the Firth of Forth,
without noticing it, and then we had crashed right
through the indicator nets of the submarine defences.
This incident, together with the Argyll fetching up on
the unlighted Bell Rock, led to a revision of the system
of war-lighting in the Forth, and on future occasions
when ships were expected May Island's full-power beam
swept the horizon with its cheering light.
In November we made a sweep over to the Nor-
114 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
wegian coast, amongst other trips, and eventually
arrived at Scapa.
Our first two days there were marked by a gale of
typical Orcadian violence. The Flow was a smother of
white foam, and the wind howled furiously from the
north-west. Then the weather suddenly changed and
became delightful : during the days we did our gunnery
exercises, and in the evenings we dined with our friends
in the battleships.
I went on board the Iron Duke and had dinner with
a friend, after which there was a sing-song in the ward-
room, which the C.-in-C. and all his staff attended.
I looked in at the telegraph office in the Iron Duke,
which was in two sections. Section I was connected
directly to the Admiralty, and whilst I was there a
continuous stream of messages were passing both ways
at the rate of seventy words a minute. Section II
could be connected by relays to any place in the
On Thursday, the i8th November, we were due to
sail for Rosyth. We sailed, but hardly in the antici-
pated direction. I will quote my notes
" By 5 p.m. that night we were bursting north-by-
east at 20 knots.
" It appears that the somewhat ancient German
cruiser Freya has been sighted steering north through
the Sound, probably by one of our submarines. I
cannot imagine what she is supposed to be doing, but
at all events here we are at 9 a.m. on the 2oth Novem-
ber patrolling a very rough, cold grey sea about 200
miles inside the Arctic Circle, viz. 68 50' N. 13 E.
This is indeed a charming spot, for this morning the sun
rose at 10.5 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, and set at
' ' Actually there are about five hours of grey, depress-
ing twilight between total darkness ' a.m.' and ' p.m.'
Nothing more has been heard of our friend. The gale
MORE ROUTINE OF WAR 1 15
is getting worse, and I have been sea-sick not once but
several times the motion is abominable.
" Oh, why on earth didn't I join the army !
" We do not know how long we are to stay in this
howling wilderness, but the engineers talk hopefully of
coal running out soon.
" Heaven help the Freya if we do meet her I do not
feel that I could waste a second picking up Huns.
" Sunday, 21. We are laboriously staggering back at
12 knots in the teeth of a south-west gale. I had the
forenoon watch : it was most unpleasant. There is no
news of the Freya at all ; I should say she is back at
Kiel if the Huns have any sense only maniacs and
British sailors go to sea in this weather.
" Overhead it's dull grey, broken only by the never-
ending procession of low clouds which scoot along from
south-west to north-east. This morning, when I was
on watch, with monotonous regularity we dipped our
forecastle right into the seas, and then the splendid little
ship lifted up her bows, a mass of seething foam which
rushed aft and broke against the conning-tower ; the
wind caught it and flung it upward and aft, so that it
fell in sheets on the upper bridge.
" One blinked one's eyes to get rid of the stinging
salt, and then another one came. Damnably cold into
the bargain, and the feet like blocks of ice.
" At ii a.m. the submarine lookout excitedly re-
ported a periscope on the beam.
" A block of ice in the infernal regions seemed as
likely a possibility. I could see nothing, and could do
" Curse the ship, how she rolls and pitches ! I can
hardly write. And yet, though I hate it, I like it.
Dashed funny thing the sea !
" The rest of the squadron are lost. In this thick
weather one can see about a mile in the spindrift,
spume, and general dirtiness.
Il6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" We are now about 700 miles from home.
" Well, I'm going to get my head down till 4.30 p.m.
Thank goodness, I have not been sea-sick to-day.
Yesterday I was sea-sick eight times most mono-
" Roll on ! Creak on ! Play pitch-and-toss to your
heart's content, my little ship. I don't care if it snows
ink between now and 4 p.m., and if Number I is feeling
strong he will keep the first dog-watch, and I shall not
be on your ' demned damp bridge ' till midnight."
The day after that on which I scribbled the above
lines found the Second Light Cruiser Squadron in a
poor way. We had been for three days without a sight
of any sort, or a glimpse of sun or stars ; and all this
while we had been struggling with the gale.
The nature of our mission decreed that we should
remain spread at night, so as to cover the maximum
amount of frontage. The result of this was, that when
it became intensely thick we quite lost touch with the
other three ships of the squadron. We could hear them
wailing piteously on short-distance wireless, and we
knew from the strength of the signals that they must
be within a radius of about 40 miles.
But which way ? North south east or west ?
We ordered the squadron to try and close the South-
ampton. Poor devils ! they no more knew our relative
or our correct geographical position than we did theirs.
The Birmingham wirelessed her estimated latitude
and longitude. It happened to coincide exactly with
our estimated position which, as Euclid would doubt-
less have said " was absurd," as by the strength of her
signals we put her about 20 miles off. Eventually we
made a signal to the squadron, which told them to
The Lowestoft and Nottingham hit off the Shetlands,
and proceeded down the eastern coasts thereof.
MORE ROUTINE OF WAR 117
We shaped a course which we fondly hoped would
lead us to Sumburgh Head (the south point of the Shet-
lands). At 4 a.m. we were saddened by seeing Muckle
Flugga (the northern point of the Shetlands) loom out
of the haze.
We coasted down the Shetlands, and picked up the
Notts and Lowestoft off Fair Island, where some mon-
strous seas were running through the Fair Island
The Birmingham missed the Shetlands, and passing
" north about " boomed off south-west into the
Atlantic on a course which in time would have taken
them to Mexico. After a few hours they smelt a rat,
and altered course south-easterly, and luckily heard the
Fair Island fog and mist signal. They came through
the Fair Island Channel and joined us.
At 6 p.m. we reached Scapa united once more. All
next day we were coaling, and at 6 p.m. we left for
A fresh gale was blowing from the north ; but we
rather liked it, as it boosted us along in great style, and
we got back to Rosyth on the 24th November at 8 a.m.
It would be incorrect to say that when we received
orders to sail with the whole Battle-cruiser Force on
the 28th, that we were pleased.
What irritated us was the reason for sailing.
It was for exercises and for the purpose of giving the
battle-cruisers a blow through and a shake up, as Sir
David had not taken them out for several weeks. As
part of the Battle-cruiser Force we had to go as well.
We all went up to the region of 62 N. eastward of the
Shetlands, and, as we expected, met a gale. We rolled
along all one day like a hog in its sty. I was feeling
very sea-sick that morning, and I had kept the first
watch during the night.
I see from my diary that we altered course beam on
to the sea at 7.30 a.m., just as I was called to get up
Il8 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
and go on watch for the forenoon. I lay in my bunk
and watched my cabin wrecked twice, with absolute
First, every book I had not carefully stowed away
slid gracefully to the deck. Tins of tobacco, cigarettes,
pipes, photos, etc., followed suit.
I watched these dispassionately unmoved cynic-
My pet pair of binoculars jumped off a hook. Their
fate left me cold.
My servant came in and stowed everything away in
what he imagined to be safe positions. Five minutes
later she gave a tremendous roll of about 40 perhaps
more. Everything that wasn't on the deck crashed
thereunto. With the disinterested gaze of sea-sick
philosophy I watched my household goods surge back-
wards and forwards across the floor.
At ten minutes to eight, fearing to miss breakfast, I
forced myself to get up, and noted with utter indiffer-
ence that a large bottle of hair-wash had fallen and
broken into my wash-basin, and that the photograph
of photographs was floating in the mess. For the
moment I had ceased to love her.
I hurriedly pulled on sweaters and jerseys, and clam-
bered on to the upper deck. A playful sea flopped into
the ship, and filled up my sea-boots.
Quite slowly and contemptuously I was sea-sick.
Somewhat strengthened, I went below and consumed
two indifferent eggs.
At 8.30 a.m. I was once more on that hated but
fascinating forebridge. Three steps one way, two
steps the other.
On our return from this trip we were all rather tired,
as we had done over 5,000 miles in bad weather in
We had a very quiet time, and Christmas Day in
MORE ROUTINE OF WAR 1 19
The Third Light Cruiser Squadron were at sea on the
25th December, and struck a very hot gale. We
smiled, and drank their health at dinner.
Our three weeks' rest was all the pleasanter, in that
during this period it blew with amazing pertinacity.
It was with no surprise that on the 5th January we
went out to our old northern ground and did three days'
exercises in bad weather. Various other sweeps,
mostly in bad weather, ensued, and once, on the loth of
February, when we were out, we very nearly had an
Unfortunately the German Battle-cruiser Force,
which was out, and thought to be coming over a certain
distance, had some destroyers ahead of it who en-
countered the Tenth Squadron of sloops, who were
sweeping off the North Dogger.
They sank the Aramis, and, I suppose, fearing this
would give a general alarm, they abandoned whatever
they had in hand and went back to the Hunneries.
We were probably nearer to them than they thought
a few more hours and we might have bagged them.
" March 3, 1916. A dull sweep.
" March 12, 1916. At sea in wretched weather
everything seems wet, the only bright spot in life is
afforded by the misfortune of the sub, who came down
off watch to find his cabin flooded out, with 6 inches of
water in all his drawers.
" To-morrow will be our fifteenth coaling in thirty-
" Query Shall I join the Coal-miners' Union ? "
We had another trip, a few days later, which took us
over to the Skajerack, and during this trip the sub and
I, who were on watch together during the middle, were
startled by a tremendous crash of some heavy body
falling between us.
We struck a match and discovered a slab of ice about
the size of a paving-stone. This billet de glace had been
120 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
forming on top of the fore-control, whence it had slid
off and fallen 50 feet, missing us both by a few inches.
I at once appropriated the large brass binnacle cover
of the compass, which I put on after the fashion of a
gigantic and toadstool-like helmet ; after the famous
precedent created by Commander, now Captain E., in
the action when four German torpedo-boats were sunk
The sub protested that he had nothing.
I was obliged to point out officially that a two-striped
officer was worth not twice but, at a modest estimate,
three times as much to England as a one-striped sub.
He disagreed, and there was a coolness between us
until the arrival of the 2-a.m. cocoa.
After this the weather ceased to be of the " galey "
variety and became very foggy and damp.
The chief bosun's mate, who used to unburden him-
self to me whilst the hands were scrubbing decks when
I had the morning watch, beat an enormous chest with
a huge fist, and trying to wheeze, said
" Ah, you 'as to 'ave the lungs of a helephant to stand
this 'ere weather ; it's like a young piece of skirt, it's
During the next few months we had a good many
trips of various kinds, including an attempted air raid
on the German coast, and a Zeppelin raid on Edinburgh.
We had the annoyance of hearing them nipping back to
their homes, 10,000 feet above us, for we were at sea off
St. Abb's Head. In the west, a huge conflagration at
Leith indicated the fate of much good whisky, ignited
by an incendiary bomb.
It would have rejoiced the hearts of the Liquor Con-
trol Board to see this oblation to the gods of Tem-
We went up to Scapa and came back to Rosyth.
Jutland was getting near.
I HAVE tried to describe in the last two chapters what
the ordinary business of war was like.
We were soon destined to pass through the fires of
battle the ultimate object of fleets and armies, the
climax of sustained effort and of preparation.
Before passing to an account of what happened to us
at Jutland, there is another side of naval life which
deserves a few words.
The British do not make war sadly, and whenever we
could, we got as much fun out of life as possible.
I would like to write a little of what we did when we
were not at sea. For at sea, life was so delightfully
simple ; of two things, one was certain either I was
on watch or I was not.
If I was not on watch, of two things, one either
sleeping or eating.
Could anything be simpler or more elemental ?
In harbour it was more complicated, though here
again, of two things, one was certain. The ship was
either at short notice or at long notice.
If she was at long notice, i.e. over two-and-a-half
hours' notice (but never more than four), then it was
possible to go ashore.
If she was at short notice, there was no leave.
And that was that.
Ashore meant walks within a radius of three or four
miles of the pier at Charlestown, or visits to Dunferm-
line by the Charlestown express. For the sum of " sax-
pence," at infrequent intervals, I used to drive the
engine of the aforesaid express.
122 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Dunfermline is chiefly notable for the fact that it was
the capital of Scotland till Princes Street came into its
own, and also for the fact that Andrew Carnegie was
born in a small house on the hill.
Thanks to this latter fact, Dunfermline possesses a
beautiful park, a public library, a Turkish bath, an
Institute of Music, a Physical Training College for young
women, and a great many other public benefits adminis-
tered by the Carnegie Trust.
We all used this delightful park in the summer, its
glorious gardens were a paradise.
In the winter there was only the local cinema-house.
I was lucky, and received much kind hospitality at the
house of Sir William and Lady Robertson.
Twice we managed to get up a game of mixed hockey
with the young ladies of the Physical Training College.
These sporting events were looked upon with the gravest
displeasure by the directors of the College. Who could
say what such goings on might lead to " Aye ! it was
verra injudeecious ! "
So, for the winter months ashore, we founded a club
called " The Robbers' Retreat." Membership was
limited to fifteen, and to approved gentlemen of any
rank from the three light cruiser squadrons. The
motto of the club was : " ABANDON RANK ALL YE WHO
The club premises consisted of a small cottage on the
pier. We furnished it ourselves, and as the club had a
water entrance, a careful observer could have detected
mysterious boats slipping in after dark and discharging
strange bundles of service gear at the club doors.
I myself found difficulty in walking past two ad-
mirals whilst I tried to look as if I were in the habit of
strolling about with two long condenser tubes instead
of walking-sticks. These were our curtain-rods.
Two small boys dressed as sailors, kept the place
clean and waited on us during tea. Tea, milk, and
HARBOUR LIFE 123
butter were provided by the club. The rest had to be
brought by the members.
It was a popular institution, and it was not uncom-
mon to see post-captains and even higher ranks sitting
on an upturned biscuit-box enjoying the club's hos-
At rare intervals an occasional hardy soul would go
to Edinburgh. I never really enjoyed myself on those
afternoons, and it was with an uneasy feeling that I
visited the North British Hotel once an hour to see if
I had been recalled.
The people from the battle-cruisers spent every after-
noon in Edinburgh, but for light-cruiser folk it was
rather too far away from the ships, for we had to get
out of harbour before the big ships in the event of a
panic taking place.
As far as the sailors were concerned their life ashore
was simple. They landed at 1.30 and marched up to
Broom Hall, lent by Lord Elgin. In the fields of the
Park they played football at all seasons of the year.
At 3 p.m. they marched down to the village green of
Charlestown, where each man was allowed to buy one
bottle of beer. The ladies of the village used to lend
Through this little ceremony romance stepped in,
and two years after our first arrival there was a
The bridegroom would have had to have averaged
about a quarter of an hour's courtship once or twice a
week for a year, for, strictly speaking, the men were not
supposed to leave the party, but he confided in me one
day and we had an unofficial conference of landing-
party officers at which certain arrangements were made.
He used to disappear at two o'clock and slip in again
amongst the party on the village green.
These were our pursuits when the ship was at long
124 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
When we were at short notice the two main amuse-
ments were medicine-ball and deck-hockey. Our decks
were rather small for these games, but " they make you
sweat " and thus fulfilled the first demand of the young
In the evenings when we were at short notice we
sometimes used to play with fate and organize charades
or a ward-room sing-song. Every time the ward-room
door opened there was a delicious moment of uncertainty
as to whether it was the steaming signal. Then if it
was not an order to slip at 10.30 p.m. the whole mess
experienced to the full the real joys of being in harbour.
If it was blowing so much the better.
We prided ourselves on our cheery evenings, and
large contingents of the " Brummagems " and the
"Notts" used to come over.
The Birmingham had a very talented concert party,
which gave frequent performances. We organized a
similar party and gave concerts once a fortnight, when
" the exigencies of the service permitted."
Every day in harbour we exercised control drill, and
twice a week general quarters.
Training the newly joined drafts, and teaching cine-
matograph actors, newspaper reporters, coal-miners,
professional musicians, etc., to be sailors, took up much
of the time.
Then we had " Our Band."
We were the first light cruiser in the Grand Fleet to
start an amateur band, for we laid its foundations in
November 1914. For further account of " Our
Band's " strange adventures, I refer you to a little book
called Strange Tales from the Fleet.
My own personal amusement during the war has
been the study of music, about which art I was in utter
ignorance in 1914. I decided, as a preliminary, to
teach myself the piano. Enough success has rewarded
me to convince me that the method of teaching the
piano practised by governesses, and teachers in and out
of schools, is quite wrong in these cases where the pupil
has no intention of doing more than play to please his
My mess-mates naturally suffered terribly. I cannot
give them a higher testimonial to their good-nature
than by saying that they allowed me to practise for an
hour and a half daily when the ship was in harbour.
The extent of my knowledge was contained in the
sentence " Middle C is opposite the keyhole." Even
I found my efforts at Rachmaninov's Prelude in C
minor terrible. To my mess-mates it must have been
one of their saddest experiences of the war.
I shall always look back on the mess-life in H.M.S.
Southampton with the greatest affection.
There were usually about fourteen or seventeen of us,
and we were exceptionally lucky in that we all got on
very well together, and under these circumstances the
mess of a small ship can be one of the happiest of
places. If people don't get on well together, a small
mess is appalling, it is so impossible to get away from
one's bete noire.
There was one pastime I forgot to mention, which
was very fashionable for several months. We were
asked to make munitions for the Army, when we had
a spare hour or so.
Our contributions consisted of rope grommets for the
protection of the copper driving-bands of shells, whilst
the latter were lying in dumps in France. A perfect
fever for grommet-making set in throughout the ship.
This disease was carefully fostered by the publication
of what other ships were doing.
Night after night everyone rushed to the smoking-
room, before and after dinner, and sat down to make
grommets as hard as he could. If one worked for
four hours incessantly it was possible to produce a
hundred. Anyone who could not boast of a daily out-
126 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
put of twenty was considered a distinct worm, and a
blot on the escutcheon of the mess honour.
Sir David himself was reported to be making not less
than twenty-five a day.
The Minister of Munitions wrote a complimentary
letter to the Battle-cruiser Force.
The infection spread, and ships clamoured for more
ambitious tasks. Canvas slings for shells were wanted ;
at once each ship was issued with a Singer treadle sew-
ing-machine. This was operated at a furious speed by
relays of enthusiasts.
The engineers despising " women's work " concen-
trated on gauges for fuses and the base-plates of small
In the course of time enthusiasm fell somewhat, then
England turned her " munition corner," and the Fleet
contribution was stopped.
Following the Army example, very little was wasted
in the Fleet. Once a week tugs came round and col-
lected waste-paper, bottles, and fat. The results of
these collections were all collated, and one would note
with pride that H.M.S. Southampton headed the fat list
for the current quarter.
In such manner did the peaceful river of life glide on
to the waterfall of Jutland.
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND
THERE is no doubt that this action at which the most
powerful fleets that have ever sailed the seas met in
battle, will provide material for discussion for many
Trafalgar has been discussed and studied for over a
hundred years, and it seems likely that the problems of
Jutland will displace the problems of Trafalgar in the
minds of the students of naval war. Such being the
case, I feel that anything written about Jutland should
be written, if it is meant to be a serious contribution to
naval literature, with a due sense of responsibility.
In the battle of Jutland, I was by the chance of war
placed in certain positions, at certain times, in such
manner that in looking back on the action, I do not
believe that a single observer could have seen more,
except from an aeroplane. Most of the time I was
engaged in taking notes, and it is of what I saw that
I proposed to write.
It may thus be accepted that, unless otherwise stated,
the incidents described are facts for which I am pre-
pared to vouch to the extent of my belief in my own
On the afternoon of the 3oth May, 1916, we were lying
at Rosyth, and I was walking up and down the quarter-
deck on watch when a string of flags rose from the
Lion's signal bridge.
I recognized it to be a steaming signal, and it turned
out to be
" Flag : Lion to Battle-cruiser Force and Fifth
128 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Battle Squadron. Raise steam and report when
ready to proceed."
We at once began to get the ship ready for sea. Our
sub-lieutenant, one H. B by name, was in the
hospital ship close at hand, where he had been sent to,
have his tonsils cut out. I had a curious feeling that
we were going to have a " show," and quite without
authority I sent him this note in our steamboat.
" DEAR H. B , I believe we are going out on a
stunt, the steamboat is going to be hoisted, but if you
want to come and can get away from the hospital ship,
nip into her and come over."
The Commodore had just come back from the shore,
and I told him what I had done, and though he did not
exactly disapprove, I saw that he thought it rather
When H. B arrived straight from bed I believe
he practically broke out of the hospital ship our Fleet
Surgeon was scandalized, and promptly ordered him
to bed. I remember that I felt rather foolish when I
went down to see him, and could only reply in answer
to his inquiries as to how long the Huns had been out,
that as far as I knew they were not out at all.
We sailed at 9 p.m.
The three light cruiser squadrons were up to strength,
but the Third Battle-cruiser Squadron was at Scapa
doing gunnery exercises ; they were commanded by
We were reinforced by the Fifth Battle Squadron,
consisting of the Malaya, Warspite, Barham, and
Valiant, under the command of Rear-Admiral Evan
Thomas. The only other absentee was the Australia,
We did not know why we were going out, and to this
moment I have never been able to find out officially
what we hoped to do, but the on dit was and still is,
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 129
that we were to support an air raid or perhaps a mine-
laying expedition in the Bight. At all events our im-
mediate destination was a rendezvous near the Horns
The Germans stated after the action that their forces
were engaged on an enterprise to the North.
I strongly suspect that this enterprise consisted in
getting the British Battle-cruiser Force between their
battle-cruisers and battle-fleet, for they knew very well
that the region of the Horns Reef was a favourite spot
of ours when we were making a reconnaissance towards
the German coast.
Everything points to the fact that for once they
expected us there and laid their plans accordingly ; or
else they were out to do a raid on North-sea trade.
It will be seen how very nearly this former state of
affairs materialized, though it is impossible to assert
definitely whether it was by accident or design. We
did not appear to be expecting Huns, as we cruised
along to the eastward at no great speed ; I think we
were making good either 17 or 19 knots. At noon we
received orders to have full speed ready at half an hour's
notice, but as we were getting well over towards the
Danish coast, this order partook of the nature of pre-
cautionary routine. The order of the Fleet was the
usual cruising formation by day. Course approxi-
The battle-cruisers were in two lines and close to
them was the cruiser Champion and the attached
destroyers. The seaplane-carrier Engardine was also
in company. Five miles ahead of the Lion, the light-
cruiser screen was spread on a line of bearing roughly
north and south.
The squadrons were in groups of two ships 5 miles
apart, and the order from north to south was First
Light Cruiser Squadron under Commodore Sinclair,
with his broad pennant in the Galatea ; Third Light
I3O NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Cruiser Squadron under Rear-Admiral Trevelyan
Napier, with his flag in the Chatham ; and Second Light
Cruiser Squadron, consisting of Southampton flying the
broad pennant of our Commodore, the Birmingham
(Captain Duff), the Dublin (Captain Scott), the Notting-
ham (Captain Miller).
Those of us who were off watch were dozing in the
smoking-room after lunch, when the secretary put his
head in, and said, " Galatea at the northern end of the
line has sighted and is chasing two hostile cruisers."
This was at 2.23 and woke us all up with a jump.
I quickly went to my cabin and made certain prepara-
tions which I always did when there was a chance of
something happening. These preparations consisted
in putting on as many clothes as possible, collecting my
camera, notebook and pencils, chocolate, and other
aids to war in comfort in case of a prolonged stay at
At 2.56 the Galatea reported that she had sighted the
German battle-cruisers, and we went to action stations,
and the ship began to throb as we worked up to full
At about 3 p.m. we all turned to the N.E. to close the
reported position of the enemy, who had turned from
their original course of north to south.
As the northern edge of our screen only just made
contact with the western edge of their screen it will be
seen how nearly we missed them.
The turn towards the north-east had brought us
(Second Light Cruiser Squadron) on the starboard
quarter of the Lion and distant but 2 miles from her.
At 3.55 the Lion turned to south-east and the battle-
cruisers assumed line of battle. This placed us before
her starboard beam, and without orders we pressed at
our utmost speed, followed by our three light cruisers
to a position ahead of the Lion.
The First and Third Light Cruiser Squadrons,
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 13!
without signal, took station astern of the battle
It was in these and subsequent movements without
signals that the value was exemplified of all the
exercises we light cruisers had done with the Lion,
The light -cruiser commanders knew exactly what Sir
David expected of them, and they did it.
As the battle-cruisers turned into line, I caught a
faint distant glimpse of the silvery hulls of the German
battle-cruisers, though owing to the great range only
parts of their upper works were visible for short inter-
vals. They appeared to be steering a slightly con-
As the battle-cruisers came into line, with the
Champion, her destroyers, and ourselves ahead of them,
both our own battle-cruisers and the Germans opened
fire practically simultaneously.
Our line consisted of the Lion, Princess Royal, Queen
Mary, Tiger, New Zealand, and Indefatigable, in the
The Germans were almost entirely merged into a
long, smoky cloud on the eastern horizon, the sort of
cloud that presages a thunderstorm, and from this
gloomy retreat a series of red flashes darting out in our
direction indicated the presence of five German battle-
It was at once evident that though the Germans were
but indifferently visible to us, we on the other hand were
silhouetted against a bright and clear western horizon,
as far as the enemy were concerned.
The German shooting, as has been the case through-
out the war, was initially of an excellent quality. Our
battle-cruisers about a mile away just on our port
quarter were moving along in a forest of tremendous
splashes. Their guns trained over on the port beam
were firing regular salvos.
At 4.15 (approx.) I was watching our line from my
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 133
position in the after-control, when without any warning
an immense column of grey smoke with a fiery base
and a flaming top stood up on the sea, where the
Indefatigable should have been. It hung there for I
don't know how many seconds, and then a hole
appeared in this pillar of smoke, through which I caught
a glimpse of the forepart of the Indefatigable lying on
its side ; then there was a streak of flame and a fresh
outpouring of smoke.
I turned with a sinking heart and watched the re-
maining five battle-cruisers.
I can nor could I next day remember no noise.
We were not, of course, firing ourselves, and it seemed
to me that I was being carried along in a kind of
I wondered what would happen next ; each time the
splashes rose on either side of the line of great ships it
was like a blow to the body. We could not see from
our low deck where the 13 -5-inch shells were falling on
that sinister eastern horizon from which the maddening
jets of flame darted in and out.
At 4.23, in the flicker of an eyelid, the beautiful Queen
Mary was no more. A huge stem of grey smoke shot
up to perhaps a thousand feet, swaying slightly at the
base. The top of this stem of smoke expanded and
rolled downwards. Flames rose and fell, in the stalk of
this monstrous mushroom. The bows of a ship, a
bridge, a mast, slid out of the smoke perhaps after all
the Queen Mary was still there.
No ! it was the next astern the Tiger.
Incredible as it may sound, the Tiger passed right
over the spot on which the Queen Mary had been
destroyed, and felt nothing. The time interval between
her passage over the grave of the Queen Mary and the
destruction of the latter ship would be about 40-60
Just before the Tiger appeared, I saw some piece of
134 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
debris go whirling up a full 1,000 feet above the top of
the smoke it might have been the armour plates from
the top of a turret. I remember that I found it im-
possible to realize that I had just seen 2,000 men, and
many personal friends, killed ; it seemed more like a
wonderful cinematograph picture.
What did worry me was that we were now reduced
I remember saying to H. B , who incidentally
had appeared from his sick-bed in pyjamas and a dress-
ing-gown, though he subsequently put on some more
clothes, " At this rate, by 5 p.m. we shall have no
He nodded solemnly he was so hoarse he could only
" But," I added, " by the laws of chance one of them
will blow up next, you see."
We were by now right ahead of the Lion, and as I
watched her, I saw a tremendous flash amidships, as
she was hit by a shell or shells. I saw the whole ship
stagger ; for what seemed eternity I held my breath,
half expecting her to blow up, but she held on and
showed no signs of outward injury.
Actually her midship turret, manned by the marines,
was completely put out of action, and had it not
been for the heroism of the major of marines the ship
might have gone. He lost his life and gained the V.C.
Soon after the Lion received this blow the Thirteenth
Flotilla was ordered to make an attack on the German
It was extremely difficult to see the destroyers after
they started, but I could vaguely see that they were
coming under heavy fire as they got about half-way
It was during this attack that Nestor and Nomad
were lost and Commander Bingham gained his V.C.
At 4.38 a very startling development took place.
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 135
We suddenly saw and reported light cruisers followed
by the High Seas Fleet bearing south-east. Sir David
Beatty at once signalled to the Battle-cruiser Force
to alter course 16 points (180). This manoeuvre was
executed by the battle-cruisers in succession.
The German battle-cruisers were doing the same
thing at the same moment.
We disobeyed the signal, or rather delayed obeying
it for two reasons
Firstly, we wished to get close enough to the High
Seas Fleet to examine them and report accurately on
their composition and disposition.
Secondly, we had hopes of delivering a torpedo
attack on the long crescent-shaped line of heavy ships
which were stretched round on our port bow.
It was a strain steaming at 25 knots straight for
this formidable line of battleships, with our own friends
going fast away from us in the opposite direction.
As we got closer I counted sixteen or seventeen
battleships with the four Konig class in the van and the
six older pre-Dreadnoughts in the rear.
Seconds became minutes and still they did not open
fire, though every second I expected to see a sheet of
flame ripple down their sides and a hail of shell fall
around us. I can only account for this strange inac-
tivity on their part by the theory that as they only saw
us end on, and we were steering on opposite courses to
the remaining British ships, they assumed we were a
German light cruiser squadron that had been running
away from the British battle-cruisers.
Only in this manner can I account for the strange
fact that they allowed us to get to within 13,000 yards
of their line, and never fired a shot at us.
This theory is supported by the fact that when at
4.45 the calm voice of Petty Officer Barnes on the
foremost rangefinder intoned, " Range one, three, five,
double ho ! Range, one, three, two, double ho ! "
136 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
the Commodore saw that we could not get into a
position for a torpedo attack, and as we should be lucky
if we got out of the place we were then in, he gave the
order for the turning signal, which had been flying for
five minutes, to be hauled down.
Over went the helms, and the four ships slewed round,
bringing our sterns to the enemy. As we turned the
fun began, and half a dozen German battleships opened
a deliberate fire on the squadron.
My action station was aft, but I could hear every-
thing that passed on the fore-bridge, as I was in direct
communication by voice-pipe. I heard the imperturb-
able Petty Officer Barnes continuing his range taking
" Range one, three, two, double ho ! Range one,
double three, double ho ! "
Crash ! Bang ! Whizzzz ! and a salvo crumped
down around us, the fragments whistling and sobbing
overhead. Suddenly I heard Petty Officer Barnes say,
with evident satisfaction, " Range hobscured ! "
I took a general look round, and the situation was as
follows (see Figs. 3 and 4).
About three or four miles north of us our battle-
cruisers were steaming along, making a good deal of
smoke and firing steadily at what I imagined to be the
German battle-cruisers' distant hulls on our starboard
Then came a gap of two miles between the battle-
cruisers and the Fifth Battle Squadron.
These latter four ships had passed the battle-cruisers
on opposite courses when Sir David Beatty turned
north, and as soon as they had passed him, Rear-
Admiral Evan Thomas turned his squadron to north-
by-west, and followed up the battle-cruisers.
It will be remembered that whilst this was going on
we (Second Light Cruiser Squadron) had still been
going south. When we turned to north, we found
ourselves about a mile behind the last ship of the Fifth
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 137
Battle Squadron. Our squadron was not in line, but
scattered as shown in Fig 5.
As flagship we had the post of honour nearest to
the enemy. We maintained this position for one hour,
during which time we were under persistent shell-fire
from the rear six ships of the German line.
But we had them under observation, and we were
able to transmit news of great importance to Sir John
Jellicoe, whom we knew to be hurrying down from the
north to our support.
We had experienced one shock to the system, on
sighting the German Fleet right ahead, and we all
anticipated that the Huns would shortly enjoy the
The Fifth Battle Squadron just ahead of us were a
brave sight. They were receiving the concentrated fire
of some twelve German heavy ships, but it did not seem
to be worrying them, and though I saw several shells
hit the Warspite just ahead of us, the German shooting
at these ships did not impress me very favourably. Our
own position was not pleasant.
The half-dozen older battleships at the tail of the
German line were out of range to fire at the Fifth
Battle-cruiser, but though we had gradually drawn out
to 15,000-16,000 yards, we were inside their range, and
they began to do a sort of target practice in slow time
on our squadron.
I was in the after-control with half a dozen men,
H. B , and the clerk. We crouched down behind
the tenth-of-an-inch plating and ate bully beef, but it
didn't seem to go down very easily. It seemed rather
a waste of time to eat beef, for surely in the next ten
minutes one of those n-inch shells would get us, they
couldn't go on falling just short and just over indefin-
itely, and, well, if one did hit us light cruisers were not
designed to digest n-inch high explosives in their
British Battle Fleet
Deploying, about 6-20 p. m
Leading British BaUlesliip
Lion at 6p.m.
passed ahead of
5* B.S.42 n .<*L.ClS. Joined
behind Battle Reel wtisn
they got North.
2 n . d LC.5p.m,
Rear Ships, German Line 5pm.
FIG. 4. Approximate situation whilst meeting Battle Fleet and during de-
ployment ; courses of Battle Cruisers and Battle Fleet and times only
approximately accurate, as we were too far south to see very well.
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 139
The sub, who was practically speechless owing to
his bad throat, and I agreed that we would not look
at the Hun line. But we could never resist having a
peep about once a minute, and somehow we always
seemed to look just as two or three of the great brutes
flickered flames from their guns at us, and we knew
that another salvo was on its way across.
We knew the time of flight was twenty-three seconds,
and the sub had a wrist-watch with a prominent second-
hand we almost agreed to throw it overboard after
three-quarters of an hour's shelling ; at the twenty-
third second the sub would make a grimace, and as if
in reply a series of splitting reports and lugubrious
moans announced that the salvo had arrived. Fre-
quently they were so close that torrents of spray from
the splashes splattered down on the boat-deck. Each
shell left a muddy pool in the water, and appeared to
burst on impact.
We all compared notes afterwards and decided that
during this hour about fifty to sixty shells fell within
100 yards of the ship, and many more slightly farther
I attribute our escape, as far as we were able to
contribute towards it, to the very clever manner in
which " I ," our navigator, zig-zagged the ship
according to where he estimated the next salvo would
fall. It was possible to forecast this to a certain
extent, as it was obvious that the Huns were working
what is technically known as " a ladder."
That is to say, the guns are fired with an increase of
range to each salvo until " the target is crossed," and
then the range is decreased for each salvo until the
splashes are short of the target once again. It is thus
a creeping barrage which moves up and down across
The best way to avoid it, is to sheer in towards the
enemy when the groups of tall splashes are coming
140 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
towards the ship, and as soon as they have crossed
over and begin once more to come towards the ship,
then reverse the helm and sheer away from the enemy.
The fascination of watching these deadly and graceful
splashes rising mysteriously from the smooth sea was
enormous. To know that the next place where they
would rise was being calculated by some Hun perched
up in one of those distant masts, and that he was
watching these " leetle cruiser ships " through a pair of
Zeiss binoculars and I was watching his ship through
a similar pair of Zeiss was really very interesting. It
would have been very interesting indeed if I could have
been calculating the position of the splashes round his
ship ; but he was 16,000 yards away, and our gun-
sights stopped at 14,500, so we just had to sit and hope
we'd see the Grand Fleet soon. At 6.17 p.m. the news
that the Grand Fleet had been sighted right ahead
spread round the ship like wild-fire.
Forgotten was the steady shelling now we'd give
them hell. The battle drew on to its dramatic climax
when as faintly ahead in the smoke and haze the great
line of Grand Fleet battleships became visible curling
across to the eastward (Fig. 4).
They had just deployed.
Then two armoured cruisers appeared from right ahead
between ourselves and the German line . They were steer-
ing about south-west, and were moving in an appalling
concentration of fire from the German battleships.
Whom could they be ?
As I watched, the leading ship glowed red all over
and seemed to burst in every direction. Our men
cheered frantically thinking it was a Hun. Alas ! I
had caught a brief glimpse of a white ensign high above
the smoke and flame, it was the Defence flying the flag
of the gallant Sir Robert Arbuthnot.
The ship astern was the Warrior, and it was evident
that she was hard hit.
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 14!
The Huns redoubled their efforts upon her, when a
most extraordinary incident amazed both sides. The
Warspite, just ahead of us, altered course to starboard
and proceeded straight for the centre of the Hun line
(Fig. 5). For some moments she was unfired at,
then as she continued to go straight for the Germans
the tornado of fire lifted from the Warrior, hovered as it
seemed in space, and fell with a crash about the Warspite.
The Warrior, burning in several places, battered and
wrecked, with steam escaping from many broken pipes,
dragged slowly out of the battle to the westward ; she
passed about 400 yards under our stern.
Meanwhile with sinking hearts the sub and I watched
the Warspite and wondered what her amazing career
portended. I focused her in my reflex camera, but so
certain did I feel that she would be destroyed that I
could not bring myself to expose the plate. I should
guess that she reached a position about 8,000 yards
from the German line when to our relief she slowly
turned round, and still lashing out viciously with all
her 15-inch guns she rejoined the British lines. At our
end of the line there was a distinct lull. In fact, the
speed of the tail of the Fleet became so slow that our
squadron turned 32 points (a complete circle) in
order not to bunch up on the battleships. In the course
of this manoeuvre we very nearly had a collision with one
of the Fifth Battle Squadron, the Valiant or Malaya.
It was now possible to try and take a general survey
of the battle (Fig. 5).
It was evident that the day of days had dawned,
though too near sunset to suit us. At last the Grand
Fleet and High Seas Fleet were up against each other,
and the fate of nations was being decided.
For a seemingly endless distance the line of Grand
Fleet battleships stretched away to the east. To the
south, the German line, partially obscured in mist, lay
in the shape of a shallow convex arc.
142 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
The Grand Fleet were loosing off salvos with splendid
The German shooting was simply ludicrously bad.
Looking up our line, I sometimes saw a stray shell fall
short of our battle fleet, and every now and then I saw
a few fall over. Otherwise nothing anywhere near
I remember seeing the Agincourt, a few ships ahead
of us, let off a lo-gun salvo a truly Kolossal spectacle,
as a Hun would say.
It was about now that I noticed that though the
surface of the sea was quite calm, yet the ship was
rolling quite appreciably. I then discovered that the
whole surface of the sea was heaving up and down in
a confused swell, which was simply due to the wash
created by the two-hundred-odd ships which were
moving about at high speeds.
Far ahead, rapid flashes and much smoke indicated
that furious attacks and counter-attacks were taking
place between the rival destroyer flotillas and their
supporting light cruisers. The battle area of these
desperate conflicts between gun platforms of J-inch
steel, moving at the speed of an express train, was the
space between the vans of the two Fleets.
We were too far off to see any details of this fighting ;
but at 6.47 we reached the spot where it had taken
place. The first thing we saw was a German three-
funnel cruiser, the Wiesbaden. She was battered badly,
as she had been lying inert between the two lines, and
whenever a British battleship could not see her target
she opened on the Wiesbaden.
We were simply longing to hit something, and this
seemed our chance. Increasing speed to 20 knots we
turned and led our squadron in to administer the coup
Turning to bring our broadsides to bear at 6,000 yards,
we directed a stream of 6-inch on the Hun, who replied
144 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
feebly with one gun. There is no doubt that the men
who worked that gun had the right spirit in them.
Beyond the Wiesbaden, at a range of about 14,000
yards, our old friends the pre-dreadnoughts were
toddling along at the stern of the German line. During
our approach to the Wiesbaden they had preserved an
ominous silence. It did not remain thus for long.
The six of them opened a rapid fire on us, and we
were at once obliged to open the range without delay.
We scuttled back to the tail of the British line as
hard as we could, zig-zagging like snipe, with n-inch
crumping down ahead, on both sides, and astern of us.
(See our track, Fig. 5-)
I counted a bunch of three about 40 yards on the
starboard beam of the ship, and H. B , who was
hanging out over the other side of the after-control,
reported a group of seven close to the ship on the port
beam. At this period (7.5 p.m.) twilight was beginning
and the visibility was partly spoiled by low-lying clouds
of funnel and brown cordite smoke, which hung like
a gloomy pall over the scene.
It was apparent from the curve of our line that we
were gradually working round to the eastward of the
Huns, and at 7.30 p.m. the Germans decided to make
a supreme effort to get out of the nasty position they
were being forced into, viz. the centre of a semicircle,
of which the British Fleet was the circumference.
That they got out very cleverly must be admitted.
A few destroyers crept out at the head of their line,
and almost immediately afterwards a dense smoke-
screen unfurled itself between us and the enemy.
Before this screen had reached its full length the
Germans were altering course 8 points together to
starboard, and escaping from the deadly fire of the
One of the minor incidents of battle now took place.
A German destroyer, part of the debris of the destroyer
THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND 145
actions some twenty minutes earlier, was lying, incap-
able of movement, between the two Fleets. Unfortun-
ately for her, she was in such a position that the smoke-
screen rolled to the southward of her. She was alone
for her sins in front of the British Fleet.
No battleship fired at her ; but we gave her a salvo
at 6,000 yards as we came abreast of her. We hit, and
a large explosion took place amidships. However, she
still managed to float, and the Faulkner and some
destroyers, who were hanging about near us, went over
and finished her off. It rather annoyed us, as we
intended to do some more target practice on her.
The Germans had disappeared somewhere to the
south-west behind their smoke, and for a few minutes
everything was strangely calm.
At 8.25 the Birmingham sighted a submarine, and I
saw that the Grand Fleet had got into five columns
for the night. Four columns were abreast of each
other, and the fifth, composed of the Valiant, Malaya,
and Barham, was astern of them. We were on the
starboard beam of this latter column (see Fig. 6). The
course of the Fleet was south, and the Germans were
somewhere to the westward of us in the growing
At 8.50 p.m. we sighted four German destroyers
approaching us on the starboard bow, apparently
intending to deliver an attack on the Fifth Battle
We opened fire at once, and hit the leading destroyer
amidships. All four turned round and, pursued by our
shells, disappeared behind a smoke-screen.
Curiously enough I met the captain of this damaged
destroyer, at a later period in the war, under differ-
ent circumstances. For he left the German destroyer
service soon after Jutland, and entered submarines.
In the fullness of time his boat was destroyed, and he
was the only survivor. Under my care he journeyed to
146 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
London and a prison camp but I am straying from
This feeble little destroyer attack may be said to
mark the conclusion of the day action as far as we
were concerned. Directly afterwards we went to night
defence stations, and nerve-strings were tightened up
I busied myself in getting the notes I had taken into
shape, and testing communications to the guns. I have
a curious little note on a crumpled signal pad. It is
dated 8.50 p.m., and says
" I see I've smoked five ounces of tobacco since
half -past three."
AT 9 p.m. heavy firing started and the south-eastern
horizon was lit by flashes.
I subsequently discovered that this was the Third
Light Cruiser Squadron and our battle-cruisers still
worrying and harassing the head of the German line
and forcing them farther and farther away from their
bases and out into the North Sea.
H. B and I were fortunate enough to discover a
slab of chocolate and some strong tea, which refreshed
us greatly. We were drinking, about our tenth cup,
when some dark shapes appeared on the starboard bow
and in a couple of minutes resolved themselves into a
flotilla of destroyers approaching on opposite courses
and at a high speed. We held our fire, and when they
were about 1,000 yards off recognized them as our
There had been no time to get the cumbersome
challenge and recognition signal started. They flashed
past us, and as the last one passed her after-gun fired
a solitary 4-inch sheU in our direction. It whistled
I account for this rude behaviour by supposing that
at this gun some gunlayer was dozing away, and
happened to wake up as we were passing. Seeing the
dim outlines of some light cruisers, he obeyed his first
instinct and pressed the trigger. We quietly steamed
on astern of the Fleet ; there was nothing to do except
1 See Fig. 6.
Nun* somewhere m
Kere at 10-op.m.
decide to steer S E
X 10-20 p.nv
Hun F/eet crosses stern of
British fleet, and gets to Eastward
Whilst on Dotted Tracks they are
subjected to violent attacks by
I 2-30 am
FIG. 6. Hun Fleet crosses stern of British Fleet.
NIGHT ACTION 149
stare out to starboard and imagine vague shapes. It
was very easy to imagine ships on the night of the
3ist May, 1916.
At about 10 p.m. searchlights criss-crossed on the far
western horizon ; they rose and fell, turned and twisted,
and finally fixed their implacable and relentless light
on a group of destroyers.
Fascinated, we watched the destroyers rushing up
the bright paths of the lights. The white splashes
gleamed all round them, and then a great red lurid
stain started in one of the attacking craft and spread to
a vast explosion of fierce white flame, beside which the
cruel searchlights seemed pale. Instantly the search-
lights were extinguished, the attack was over, and once
more all was dark.
We had probably witnessed one of the many and
glorious attacks in which the British destroyer flotillas
threw themselves without stint upon the German Fleet
throughout this strange night.
The sudden disappearing of all signs of this attack
ever having been made, left a curious feeling of empti-
ness in the atmosphere.
I groped my way on to the bridge and had a chat
with B , the gunnery lieutenant, as a result of which
he arranged that in the event of night action he would
control the guns from the forebridge and I would be in
general charge aft.
A signalman, and R. I. the navigator suddenly
whispered, " Five ships on the beam."
The Commodore looked at them through night
glasses, and I heard a whispered discussion going on as
to whether they were the enemy or the Third Light
From their faint silhouettes it was impossible to
discover more than the fact that they were light
cruisers. I decided to go aft as quickly as possible.
On the way aft I looked in at the after-control, where
I5O NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
H. B said to me, " There are five Huns on the
beam. What on earth is going on ? "
They were evidently in as much doubt as we,
for as I got down into the waist by the mainmast,
a very great many things happened in a very short
We began to challenge ; the Germans switched on
coloured lights at their fore yardarms.
A second later a solitary gun crashed forth from the
Dublin, who was next astern of us. Simultaneously I
saw the shell hit a ship just above the water-line and
about 800 yards away.
As I caught a nightmare-like glimpse of her interior
which has remained photographed on my mind to this
day, I said to myself : " My G , they are along-
At that moment the Germans switched on their
searchlights, and we switched on ours. Before I was
blinded by the lights in my eyes I caught sight of a line
of light grey ships. Then the gun behind which I was
standing answered my shout of " Fire ! "
The action lasted 3^ minutes. The four leading
German ships concentrated their lights and guns on the
Southampton ; the fifth and perhaps the fourth as well
fired at the Dublin.
The Nottingham and Birmingham, third and fourth
in our line, with great wisdom did not switch on their
lights and were not fired at.
In those 3^ minutes we had 89 casualties, and
75 per cent, of the personnel on the upper deck were
killed or wounded.
It is impossible to give a connected account of what
happened. Many strange and unpleasant things hap-
pen when men find themselves in hell on earth. Men
strong men go mad and jump overboard. Wounded
men are driven to the oblivion of death in the sea by
the agony of their injuries. It is not good to look too
NIGHT ACTION 151
closely into these things which are the realities, the
plain facts of battle.
The range was amazingly close no two groups of
such ships have ever fought so close in the history of
this war. There could be no missing. A gun was fired
and a hit obtained the gun was loaded, it flamed, it
roared, it leapt to the rear, it slid to the front there was
But to load guns, there must be men, flesh and blood
must lift the shells and cordite and open and close the
hungry breeches. But flesh and blood cannot stand
high explosives, and there was a great deal of H.E.
bursting all along H.M.S. Southampton's upper deck
from her after-screen to the forebridge.
The range was so close, the German shots went high,
just high enough to burst on the upper deck and around
the after superstructure and bridge. And in a light
cruiser that's where all the flesh and blood has to
So in a very few seconds my guns stopped firing, all
through lack of flesh and blood it was a great pity. In
fact, the sergeant-major, with a burnt face, and myself
seemed to be the only bits of flesh and blood left
Where on earth were the others ?
Why had the men on each side of me fallen down in
such funny heaps ? It was curious, very curious ; as a
matter of fact, daylight revealed that it wasn't so very
remarkable. The really remarkable thing was that the
sergeant-major, with his burnt face, and myself were
still standing about and representing flesh and blood.
One shell had burst on the side just below the gun,
and the fragments had whipped over the top of the low
bulwark and mowed the men down as standing corn
falls before the reaper.
Another shell had burst on the searchlight just above
us, and hurled the remains of this expensive instrument
152 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
many feet. Three men who looked after it and had
guided its beam on to the enemy died instantaneously.
The fragments from this shell descended upon " the
waist " like hail, and scoured out the insides of the gun-
shields of the two 6-inch, manned by marines, one gun
each side. And then I seemed to be standing in a fire.
The flash of some exploding shell had ignited half a
dozen rounds of cordite.
A shell exploding in the half-deck had severed the
connexion to the upper deck fire main. I put my head
down a hatch and shouted for a good hose. The wine
steward came up on deck with one, someone turned on
the water down below, and the fire was quickly out.
The wine steward forgot his servitude, he rose to the
heights of an officer, he was my right-hand man. He
spoke words of fierce exhortation to the wounded ;
those who could get up did so.
Then it became lighter than the day.
I looked forward.
Two pillars of white flame rose splendidly aloft. One
roared up the foremast, the other reached above the
tops of the second and third funnels.
This then was the end ! The heat warmed the cheek.
It was bad luck, just after we had got the small fire aft
extinguished. But there could be no doubt ; the cen-
tral ammunition hoist was between those two funnels.
What was it going to feel like to blow up ?
Let me see, how had the Queen Mary looked ?
Of course we were a smaller ship, perhaps we would
blow up in a gentler manner.
Might as well take one's greatcoat off, just in case
one fetched up in the water. I took it off.
What ought one to do?
Could not be more than a few seconds now. What
could one do in a few seconds ?
Could not fire a gun no men.
Fascinating sight, those two pillars of white flame.
NIGHT ACTION 153
By Heaven, the centre one had turned red.it wavered,
it decreased in height, it grew again ; but the spell was
broken and I rushed to the ladder which led from the
waist to the boat deck in order to get up to the fire and
I ran a few steps and tripped up, over a heap of
bodies. I got up, tried not to tread on soft things, and
arrived on the boat deck.
The firing had ceased, the Commander and H. B
were at the central fire. It suddenly went out, so did
the foremost one.
Everything was pitch black.
Where were the Germans ?
Nothing but groans from dark corners.
Though I did not know it at the time, the Germans
They fled because A , our torpedo lieutenant,
had fired a 2i-inch torpedo. At 41 knots the torpedo
had shot across and, striking the Frauenlob, had blown
her in half. Out of 300 Huns in her 7 survived.
I have their account of the action before me.
They say, " The leading ship of the British line burst
into flames and blew up . . . then we were torpedoed."
They were wrong their friends sheered off just a few
seconds too soon.
I will admit that they probably think they saw us
A friend of mine, McG , who was five miles away
in one of the Fifth Battle Squadron, read a signal on
the bridge by the light of our fires.
In the ships of our squadron astern they thought we
had gone, and took shelter from the bits they expected
to come down.
It was a near thing.
It is after the firing is over that the real horror of
a night action begins. We did not know where the
Germans were, our guns' crews were practically non-
154 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
existent, the voice-pipes and telephones to the guns
were in shreds. We simply had to have time to re-
organize, so we didn't dare show a light.
Yet the upper deck was strewn with dead and
wounded. One stumbled on them as one walked. By
the aid of discreetly struck matches and shaded torches
the upper deck was searched.
I heard a groan and came upon a poor boy named
Mellish. He could only say, " My leg my arm."
Another man and myself got him down one of the two
steep hatches that led to the lower deck. His injuries
were sickening, but with a smile he said : " It's no
good worrying about me, sir ! " and then he died. I
don't think he felt any pain.
I went up to the bridge to see B about reorganiz-
ing the men left for guns' crews and rigging up tempor-
ary communications. As I passed the chart house a
well-known voice called me in. It was the Commodore.
He told me to go down to the fleet surgeon and
find out what our casualties were. And once more I
I went down the foremost hatch and along the central
passage nicknamed the twopenny tube which in this
class of ship runs down the centre of the ship above the
boiler and engine-rooms. There was about six inches
of water in this passage, which had slopped in from
some holes almost exactly on the water-lines.
The operating room at the after end of this passage
was the stokers' bathroom.
Imagine a small room which a shore-goer might
hesitate to use as a dark room in his house, it might get
so stuffy. The size of this room was about 8 feet high,
12 feet broad and 12 feet long. The centre of the room
was occupied by a light portable operating table. A
row of wash basins ran down one side, and the steel
walls streamed with sweat.
Four bright electric lights were fixed to the roof,
NIGHT ACTION 155
but with its faults the stokers' bathroom had some
advantages. It had a tiled floor and a drain in the
Stepping carefully between rows of shapes who were
lying in lines down each side of the passage-way, I put
my head inside the narrow doorway.
Bare-armed the fleet surgeon and C , the young
doctor, were working with desperate but methodical
haste. They were just taking a man's leg off above the
knee, so I did not interrupt. When they had finished
and the patient had been carried out, I gave the
P.M.O. the Commodore's message, whilst his assistants
went outside to get another man.
" About 40 killed and 40 or 50 wounded," he said.
I thanked him, and went back to the bridge.
He was hard at it for eleven hours : truly the doctor
is one of the finest products of modern civilization.
I told the Commodore what I had learned. He made
a remark. I realized we were only one light cruiser in
a very big fleet.
I went aft again and down to the ward-room. The
mess presented an extraordinary appearance. As it
was the largest room in the ship, we placed all the
seriously wounded cases in it. The long table was
covered with men, all lying very still and silently white.
The young doctor was in charge, and as I came in he
signalled to the sick-berth steward to remove one man
over whom he had been bending. Four stokers, still
grimy from the stoke-hole, lifted the body and carried
Two men were on top of the sideboard, others were
A hole in the side admitted water to the ward-
room, which sploshed about as the ship gently rolled.
In this ankle-deep flood, bloodstained bandages and
countless pieces of the small debris of war floated to
156 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
All the wounded who could speak were very cheerful
and only wanted one thing cigarettes. The most
dreadful cases were the " burns " but this subject
cannot be written about.
An hour's work on deck connected with the re-
organization of the guns' crews, the impressment of
stokers off watch for this duty, and the testing of com-
munications followed. Then H. B and myself
decided we'd sit down somewhere. We went up to the
fore-bridge, and rolled ourselves up in the canvas cover
of a compass.
Horrors ! it was wet. We hastily shifted to a less
We had just lain down when fresh gun-firing broke
out right astern, and every one was on the qui vive with
a jump. It died down I wasn't sorry, we were not as
ready for action as we could have wished.
We increased speed to 20 knots, and as dawn
slowly grew the ghostly shapes of some battleships
loomed out of the mist. I heard a pessimist on the
upper bridge hazard the opinion that we were about to
take station astern of the German Battle Fleet, but as
the light grew brighter we saw that we had rejoined the
Complete daylight enabled us to survey the damage.
The funnels were riddled through with hundreds of
small holes, and the decks were slashed and ripped with
splinters. There were several holes along the side, but
the general effect was as if handfuls of splinters had
been thrown against the upper works of the ship. The
protective mattresses round the bridge and control
position were slashed with splinters. The foremast, the
rigging, the boats, the signal lockers, the funnel casing,
the mainmast, everything was a mass of splinter
Our sailors firmly believed, and continued to do so up
to the day on which I left the ship, that we had been
NIGHT ACTION 157
deluged with shrapnel. It was certainly surprising that
anyone on the upper deck remained unhit.
The flag lieutenant, one P by name, had a
remarkable escape. The secretary asked him what he
had done to his cap during the night. P took it
off, and there was a large rent where a splinter, which
must have been shaped something like a skewer, had
entered his cap just above his ear and gone out again
through the crown. P had felt nothing. This
sounds almost impossible, but I can vouch for its abso-
There were other curious escapes.
O , the paymaster, was sitting in the decoding
office under the waist when the action began. A shell
came through the side, passed through the canvas walls
of the decoding office and burst near the ward-room,
taking a man's head off en route. O " felt a
wind " !
H. B was leaning over the ledge of the after-
control when a shell passed through a bracket support-
ing the ledge he was leaning over. From here it went
through the funnel and burst with deadly effect in the
inside of a gun shield of one of the guns on the dis-
The Commodore walked round the upper deck at
about 9 o'clock, and was loudly cheered.
The morale of the crew was splendid.
It suddenly occurred to me that I might as well go
and have a look at my cabin. I got through the water-
tight doors and discovered an extraordinary scene of
confusion in the foremost cabin flat. Three shells had
burst therein, and one had apparently chosen my cabin
for its final effort. The place was smashed to pieces,
and water was splashing in through a small hole in the
I've only seen one sight comparable to it, and that
was the inside of a German submarine after a strong
158 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
party of souvenir hunters had been invited to go round
I paddled about, feeling like a lost soul, for a few
moments in what had been a rather fashionable cabin,
and then retired, closing the water-tight door on the
My first impulse, which I obeyed, was to find S. B
and one or two others and invite them to look at their
cabins even thus can joy be extracted from the sor-
rows of others.
To return to the movements of the ship.
As soon as it was daylight, squadrons had sorted
themselves out, and we searched about until we dis-
covered the Lion and other battle-cruisers, to whom we
A Zepp passed overhead at 10 a.m., but otherwise we
saw no signs of the enemy, though we cruised about in
At noon it became evident that the Huns had got in,
and so the signal was made for the Fleet to return to its
Soon after lunch on our way north we passed the bow
of a destroyer sticking up out of the water, and near by
we steamed through an immense oily and smooth pool
of water, which doubtless marked the resting-place of
some great ship.
In the afternoon the Commodore held a short service
in the waist. It was a moving scene. Overhead the
main-top mast, which had been half-shot through,
swayed giddily about and seemed likely to go over the
side or come down on the boat deck at any moment.
In serried lines the officers and men stood bare-headed
round the Commodore, who read a few of the wonderful
prayers for the use of those at sea. I think we all felt
That night the weather became nasty, and we had
trouble with the temporary shores and plugs that had
NIGHT ACTION 159
been improvised for the holes near the water-line. We
had to heave to for short periods. I spent most of the
night either on the bridge or searching for a sleeping
Next day we continued on our course for Rosyth,
which place we reached at 2 p.m. We were the last
ship of the Battle-cruiser Force to enter harbour, and
as the battle-cruisers had been in since 2 a.m. our
belated appearance caused much relief amongst certain
On our way in we had buried a poor fellow, who had
lain like a marble statue on the ward-room table for
thirty-six hours. There were no injuries upon him he
died of shock. I used to go in and look at him ; he
seemed so peaceful and still that it was almost impos-
sible to believe that in that body life was yielding inch
by inch to death.
The burial service at sea is the most poignant of all
ceremonies. Doubtless he had welcomed the sight of
May Island many times as we returned from trips in
the North Sea, and as his body slid from beneath the
Union Jack into the waters bubbling along our side
there was a silence in which as if by a prearranged
signal the voice of the lookout floated aft " Land on
the port bow." It was May Island.
As soon as we had anchored, hospital drifters came
alongside, and the wounded were lifted out in cots and
transferred to an adjacent hospital ship.
It was this afternoon that a reaction began to set in.
Everyone was very snappy and irritable, there were
horrible rumours (with a basis of truth, I regret to say)
that men landing from ships like the Warspite, that had
been in some time, had been the object of hostile
It was impossible to find out any facts as to what
damage the Germans had sustained ; and our own
losses had been onty too apparent. There were de-
l6o NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
pressing gaps in the lines of battle-cruisers where the
three lost ships had been in the habit of lying.
I felt very miserable, largely due, I think, to lack
of sleep, and to the fact that the ward-room being unin-
habitable, and my cabin wrecked, I had nowhere to go
to. There was also the official communique a bit of a
damper. I felt I wanted to burst into tears, hit some-
body, or do something equally foolish.
At 5 p.m. a definite order to go into the basin of
Rosyth dockyard relieved the strain, and, with a job in
hand, everyone became cheery again. As we were
slowly wharf ed through the lock gates, large crowds
assembled to greet us, chiefly composed of dockyard
men, and men from the War spite, and survivors of the
Warrior, which had sunk some 80 miles from the action,
after being towed by the Engadine.
The survivors of the Warrior were garbed in a
mixture of uniform and plain clothes, and were in great
spirits. They were making much of the men of the
Warspite, to which ship they rightly ascribed their
salvation, as had the Warspite not turned in towards
the German line when she did, there is little doubt the
Warrior would have followed the Defence in a very
short space of time.
Next day most of the officers and crew went on leave,
a few men under my command being left to superintend
The Commodore shifted his broad pennant to the
Birmingham whilst we were out of action.
Before our ship's company went on leave Sir David
Beatty came on board and made us a very charming
and complimentary speech.
During the three weeks in which we were being
repaired at Rosyth, we had a great many visitors on
board, including His Majesty the King, to whom I had
the honour of being presented.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith) and a party also
NIGHT ACTION l6l
visited the ship. I was showing him my cabin, and he
commented on the damage to my private effects. I was
about to strike when the iron was hot, and hint at the
desirability of bringing pressure to bear on the Treasury
to treat all claims in a broad-minded manner, when I
suddenly recollected that, as my guest was First Lord
of the Treasury, he might think it somewhat pointed if
I enlarged on the iniquities of that department.
Large parties of technical sight-seers came up from
the Admiralty, the gunnery school (Whaley), and the
torpedo school (Vernon), and swarmed over the ship,
asking innumerable questions and taking notes.
The Tiger, Princess Royal, and Warspite were in
dock alongside us, and I had a good look at all their
damage, and heard many interesting stories of their
share in the action.
On the iyth June I went on leave, and was more
than glad to see dear old London again. When I
returned in a penniless condition, on the 2gth June,
we were once more back in our old billet off Charles-
town and flagship of the Second Light Cruiser Squad-
In one way we were changed. There were sixty new
faces amongst the ship's company, and as these new
arrivals had joined no ordinary ship, but a ship with a
reputation, we started as hard as we could to train them
up in the way they should go.
SOME REFLECTIONS ON JUTLAND
WE now know as a result of the Great Surrender
that the German Fleet received such a hammering
on the 3ist May, 1916, that from that date they decided
never to try an engagement with heavy ships again.
That they did not lose more ships than they did,
although at least ten were struck by British torpedoes,
may be ascribed to the excellent underwater construc-
tion and subdivision into minute compartments of their
ships, coupled with the fortune of war.
The causes of the constructional defects which led to
the loss of three battle-cruisers on our side by single
shots, which striking anywhere else would have done
little harm, were investigated in due course, and no
good purpose can be served by trying to inquire into
these things in the pages of a book of this description.
The constructional defects themselves were remedied
in a short time as a result of a conference held im-
mediately after the battle.
Our system of fire control, possibly inferior to the
German system in the opening moments of an action,
but certainly superior after the first few minutes, was
modified with a view to improving the rate of hitting
when action commences.
The great value of aerial scouts was shown at Jut-
Had Scheer made use of Zeppelins during the after-
noon of the 3 ist he would have known exactly when to
break off action in order to avoid having to meet Sir
SOME REFLECTIONS ON JUTLAND 163
The importance of " light " conditions, from the
gunnery point of view, was shown to be very great.
Our handicap in this respect during the battle-cruiser
action was very noticeable. There was only one way to
avoid it, and that was to break off action ; but that's
not the way to conduct war when the enemy is sighted
for the first time for sixteen months.
As to whether the distance between the Grand Fleet
battleships and the battle-cruisers was excessive, I
prefer to offer no opinion. The facts are plain, let each
judge for himself. One thing is certain, if the Battle
Fleet had been in visual touch with our battle-cruisers,
there would have been no battle.
One of the cleverest tactical moves of the day was the
German smoke-screen. It was executed with precision
and accuracy at the psychological moment, and taught
us a lesson as to the value of smoke-screens when
There is a lot of talk flying about and a certain
amount of nonsense has been written (much more to
follow, I'm sure) about what the leading divisions of
our Battle Fleet ought or ought not to have done. As
I was at the other end of the line I don't propose to add
to the aforesaid flood of eloquence by the critics on the
At 8.30 p.m. Scheer was in a very nasty hole. He'd
not done badly up till then, for he had inflicted con-
siderable losses on the British battle-cruisers, though his
subordinate Hipper's flagship, the Lutzow, was in a
sinking condition, and he had managed to remain under
the fire of the British Battle Fleet for a sufficiently
short period to avoid annihilation.
But, and it must have been a very big BUT, it was a
case of out of the frying-pan into the fire, for he was in
a position which, to the commander of an inferior fleet
should be like holy water to the Devil. Scheer found
himself being forced out into the North Sea with Sir
164 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
John Jellicoe insinuating himself between him and his
bases in the Bight.
There must have been some anxious moments in the
staff-room of the German Fleet flagship between 9 p.m.
and 3 a.m.
Scheer had three choices :
(1) Try and get home round the Skaw.
(2) Try and get into the Bight by Horns Reef.
(3) Try and get into the Bight by Borkum.
And the British destroyer flotillas hanging on to him
like grim death throughout the dark hours.
His battleships rammed them, they bumped down
their sides, so close the guns couldn't depress enough to
His battleships sank some by 6-inch gunfire, others
came out of the night. Like a nightmare they were
with him till the day. Day ah ! that was the rub.
Another day action must be avoided at all costs.
Choices (I) and (3) meant daylight and many miles to
go, and so I believe for this reason he chose (2).
"It is true," I can imagine him saying, " the
British Fleet is there, but I may miss them, and at the
worst it will be a colossal mix-up in the night all in
favour of the weaker side."
And so, as soon as he had shaken Sir David off at
about 9.30 p.m., he sent the Fourth Scouting Group to
the south-east to reconnoitre. As already described,
this group of German light cruisers encountered the
Second Light Cruiser Squadron and retired back to the
west minus the Frauenlob.
When the news of this engagement reached Scheer
he must have felt that it would be well-nigh impossible
for him to get to Horns Reef without encountering the
However, the hours of darkness were few, and he
pushed east in detached divisions of battleships con-
tinually being harassed by our destroyer flotillas.
SOME REFLECTIONS ON JUTLAND 165
Certain evidence at my disposal justifies me in saying
that the main body of the German Fleet crossed our
wakes between u p.m. and I a.m., a few miles to the
northward of us. We were about 5 miles to the north
of the tail of the British Battle Fleet, and there is reason
to believe that at least one big German battle-cruiser
passed ahead of us and astern of the Fleet. (See Fig. 6.)
Once the Germans were well to the eastward they
steered south, and as at dawn the British Grand Fleet
turned north again, the Germans were slipping south
through their minefields and coastal channels. Had the
day been moderately clear we should have seen them,
but the visibility was about 2 miles, and hidden from
each other by the mist, we passed on opposite courses,
probably scarcely 10 miles apart.
At 10 a.m. we were once more sweeping south, but by
that time they must have been practically home.
How had we missed them ?
How had they crossed our wakes during the night
without our Battle Fleet knowing exactly where they
were in the morning ?
There are a great many contributory causes to this
misfortune from our point of view.
It must be admitted that certain sections of the
British Fleet were in touch with the Germans until
dawn these were our destroyer flotillas. It was from
them that information could have come.
One destroyer, at the least, did send a wireless
message reporting exactly where the Huns were.
I am told it was jammed by Telefunken. The
Germans were fully alive to the necessity of spoiling
our wireless signals and the ether jangled with dis-
cordant and high-power Telefunken wireless notes.
It must also be remembered that the Tipperary
(Captain D.'s destroyer) was blown up, and in the heat
and fury and bewildering uncertainty of the continuous
night attacks it is very probable that several people
l66 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
thought others were doing the reporting. It is so easy
to sit down comfortably, two or three years after the
event, and say what might have been done ; but, when
the first Fleet action of the war is fought, everything
can hardly be expected to " develop according to plan."
I wish to mention another point. The British Grand
Fleet has been the hub of the Allied wheel during
In my opinion it is absurd to say, as has been said,
that once battle was joined, the above fact should have
no place in the minds of those who directed the move-
ments of the Fleet. That it did not weigh unduly in
those minds is my firm personal opinion.
Amongst other tactical lessons which were brought
home to our ship in a very forcible manner, was the fact
that searchlights, unless used with great care, can be of
more harm than value to the side using them.
The difficulty of challenging doubtful craft at night
was emphasized. The first ship to start a flashing sig-
nal gets a broadside in reply if the other ship is enemy.
I need hardly say that a book could be written
dealing in detail with the strategical and tactical
aspects of Jutland, from the great deployment into
battle of the Grand Fleet down to the medical arrange-
ments in the various classes of ships.
Such things are beyond the scope of this book.
Again, in the personal account of the action which I
have endeavoured to set out on the previous pages,
I have omitted many facts which, though of my know-
ledge, did not come under my observation or affect in
any way the ship in which I served.
Such incidents are the destruction of the armoured
cruiser Black Prince by one stupendous salvo from a
German battleship at point-blank range in the middle
of the night, or the hazardous work of the Abdiel,
which ship laid down a minefield in the approaches to
the Bight whilst the night action was going on mines
SOME REFLECTIONS ON JUTLAND 167
which were subsequently heard to detonate by one of
our submarines which was lying on the bottom some
30 miles away.
I myself have an impression of the after-effects of
Jutland which stays obstinately in my mind. It was
on the 3rd June, and the embargo on people leaving the
dockyard had been removed. I decided to go to
Dunfermline, and walking past the shell-scarred battle-
cruisers I went through the gates and boarded a tram.
It was packed, and the air of excitement and babel
of noise were intense. Doubtless the action, I thought,
and listened to hear what they were saying.
The cause of the excitement was a football match
in which Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath strove together
in a League Semi-Final.
We are a remarkable nation and doubtless that is
why Providence has allowed us a remarkable Empire.
THERE was a pause for breath after the Battle of
Jutland, during which period both the Hun and our
own yards were busy.
Rosyth proved itself to be of untold value, and,
though not supposed to be in a finished state, coped
with three large ships and the Southampton.
A great many dockyard workers came up temporarily
from Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. The
success of Rosyth was largely due to the personality of
the Commodore in charge, of whom many amusing
stories are in circulation.
He lived in a tin shed in the centre of the yard, and
was reported to be in the habit of convening meetings
of dockyard officials at any hour of the day or night, if
he considered the matter to be at all urgent.
He spared no one less than himself, and was a relent-
less worker. He was to be seen walking slowly about
the yard with an eye on everything and everybody ; at
his approach parties of workmen were galvanized into
He had a strong dislike to fast driving in the dock-
yard ; and one day I went past him on a motor
The policeman at the gate told me that I was to
report myself at the Commodore's office. Full of fear,
I repaired to his quarters, where he asked me why I had
driven furiously in the precincts of the yard ?
I murmured something about " only going six miles
an hour, sir."
CARRYING ON 169
He fixed me with a stern look, and replied, " There
is one speed in this yard, MY speed."
I saluted and withdrew.
Yet with all the enormous work and responsibility on
his hands after Jutland, it was through a telegram from
him that my people first heard I was all right.
There were many conferences going on at this time
both in the Battle-cruiser Force at Rosyth and the
Battle Fleet at Scapa, to consider the various technical
aspects of Jutland, and at the conclusion of these we
(Second Light Cruiser Squadron) went up to Scapa to
shoot. We particularly needed this in the Southampton
owing to our large new draft, some of whom had never
heard a gun go off.
Just before we left we sold the clothing bags and
effects belonging to the ratings who had been killed.
In the Navy if a man is lost, and his dependants do not
want it, his clothing is sold by auction, on the upper
deck. It was a sad sight to see the odd thirty-five bags
piled up in a heap.
The sailor is a most generous man, and, on these
occasions, flannel collars worth zs. sell for 155., and are
then thrown in again, especially if the man has left a
widow. All our widows were also being well looked
after in other ways by officers' wives.
On the way up to Scapa a new R.N.R. lieutenant,
P by name, whose ambition in life was to get into
a Q-boat T (but to his annoyance he had come to us to
relieve a fellow wounded at Jutland), found himself on
watch alone at 3 a.m.
He wished to switch on a shaded light in the chart
table, so finding a small switch painted red, he turned it
on. The immediate effect was not noticeable, but in
about 90 seconds P was astonished to see a crowd
of half-dressed officers headed by the Commodore burst
on to the bridge, whilst every hatch to the upper deck
1 Mystery ship.
170 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
vomited forth semi-naked sailors. Shouts of " P2
gun cleared away ! " " ?3 ready ! " "82 cleared
away ! " etc. etc., resounded through the ship, more and
more sailors struggled on to the upper deck, until poor
P felt quite bewildered.
It was then explained to him, somewhat forcibly,
that he had switched on every alarm rattler in the ship.
Amidst the curses of 300 officers and men, P
resumed his solitary vigil.
After the usual orgy of gunnery and torpedo at
Scapa we returned to Rosyth.
Meanwhile the Hun had been preparing a little
booby trap for the British Fleet, and to give the Devil
his due we did put one foot into it.
On the i8th August we were at sea, ahead of the
battle-cruisers and steaming down towards the Dogger
Bank. Forty or fifty miles astern of us we knew that
the Grand Fleet were coming south at their best speed.
The bait was the High Seas Fleet, which were re-
ported by the Harwich force to be well over to the
west in the southern part of the North Sea. From the
chart it looked as if we stood a fairly good chance of
forcing them to action at about 2.30 p.m.
The day was fine and seemed full of promise.
Somewhere about 7.30 a.m. the Nottingham was
torpedoed at a position several miles on our port beam.
As far as I remember, I think one of the survivors told
me that it took three torpedoes to put her down.
Some of the crew got away on rafts and in boats,
but a good many people, including the captain, were
in the water for half an hour, until picked up by
destroyers. She went down quite slowly by the head,
and we heard afterwards that when her forecastle sank
flush to the water her captain formed up the officers
and men who were still remaining into a procession,
which solemnly goose-stepped down the forecastle in
single file, and so into the sea.
CARRYING ON 17!
It was after breakfast that we heard definitely that
she had gone, and that destroyers were taking the
survivors, fortunately numerous, into Newcastle.
The loss of the Nottingham was felt very severely in
the Southampton. We had done so much together, and
knew each other so intimately, that to lose her was like
losing one of the family. This feeling of camaraderie,
which exists in various degrees in all squadrons, was
especially strong in the Second Light Cruiser Squadron,
and we all hung together throughout the war, and felt
proud to belong to the Second Light Cruiser Squadron.
We were cruising south at 10.30 a.m. with destroyers
in company, when one of the latter suddenly increased
to full speed and dashed ahead from a position about
half a mile on our starboard beam. As she did so she
began to flash a signal to us. Letter by letter it came
" F-E-R-I-S-C-O-P-E A-H-E-A-D O-F Y-O-U."
Before it was completed we had rung down for full
speed, and were making a sharp turn to port, whilst
between decks, every door that wasn't closed was being
shut. For ten minutes I felt rather as if I were walking
on quicksands, but at the end of that period we knew
that we must be outside the radius of that particular
Fritz, so we resumed our course and speed on the screen.
At noon we heard from the Harwich forces who were
in touch with the Huns that the latter were steaming
east at high speed, and all our hopes faded away ; we
lost them by about two hours. After lunch we retired
to the northward and caught a distant view of the
Battle Fleet, lines of battleships, watched over by kite
balloons and surrounded by busy destroyers.
At half-past three, whilst on our way north, we
sighted a large German submarine on the surface. He
was about six or seven miles away. Just as we were
going to give him a broadside, he seemed to melt into
the skyline he had dived. Shortly after this, the
172 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Falmouth was torpedoed, a few miles on our starboard
beam. Destroyers and other salvage vessels made a
great attempt, lasting throughout the night to get her
into the Humber, but she gave up the struggle and sank
in sight of the English coast. She was hit either four
or five times.
By tea-time this submarine business was getting
beyond a joke, and it was with great pleasure that we
welcomed what poets call " The shades of night." I
am uncertain as to how often the battleships and battle-
cruisers saw submarines or were fired at, but I know
that for them the day held plenty of thrills. The Ger-
mans came out with a fantastic tale of torpedoing and
blowing up a battleship details were given, including
the height of the flames which went up " above her
funnels." I can only suppose that this story emanated
in the brain of an officer who wanted an Iron Cross.
At the close of the day it was evident that the High
Seas Fleet had been a lure to draw us over an area in
which Fritzes were plentiful. They got to " wind-
ward " to the extent of two light cruisers, and on the
whole, though we were " had," the Fritzes certainly
ought to have got home on our Battle Fleet. I am
certain that had British submarines had a similar
opportunity they would have hit at least three big ships
or perished in the attempt.
On getting back to Rosyth we settled down to the
old routine. I seem to have had a grievance at this
period, for I wrote :
"Aug. 27, 1916. This confounded Dark Night
Patrol has come on again. We went out and did our
turn, and had very good weather, but we can't hope for
much more of it.
" We are now Emergency Squadron at short notice.
It is a curious fact that the smaller the ship the more
strenuous time does she have. Note this for future
wars ! But on second thoughts I wouldn't change.
CARRYING ON 173
" For instance, the battle-cruisers have quite a com-
fortable time ; they only go to sea on genuine stunts
and they've each got a place like the body of a Rolls-
Royce perched up on the bridge, in which I presume
the officer of the watch walks at his ease. When in
harbour they are nearly always at four hours' notice.
" Then there are the three light cruiser squadrons,
containing eleven of us at present, as we are only
Southampton, Dublin, Birmingham, and the First and
Third Squadrons. We have a moderately strenuous
time ; the little crosses we have to bear are
" (a) There is always one of us Emergency Squadron,
which is like hanging on to a split yarn by the
skin of one's teeth.
" (b) When there is no moon, one of us is always out
on a D.N.P.
" (c) Odd stunts of no interest.
" Lastly, there are the destroyers.
" These little ships seem to be continually nipping
in and out in a perpetual bustle of excitement ; and it is
quite habitual for them to lie at one hour's notice when
in harbour. I hate one hour's notice, and whenever we
get to that stage, I want to go to sea.
" During the day, every time a flag goes up one
thinks it a steaming signal, and at night I can't get to
sleep, as I'm so certain I'm going to be called and told
we're off. I should think it must be like that in France,
only worse, much worse, when attacks are postponed.
" Sept. 4, 1916. As we were Emergency Squadron
we had every expectation of being the sacrificial lamb
for D.N.P. to-night.
" In the middle of the forenoon we were quite elated
to hear that the Royalist, who is down here temporarily
from Scapa, was to do it instead of us. However, the
arrival of three envelopes from the Lion, and sundry
other signs, told us that we were ticked off for a routine
174 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" I hope something happens.
" At 6 p.m. three battle-cruisers of the Second Battle-
cruiser Squadron, ourselves, and six destroyers left the
base and went easterly.
" We picked up a gale almost at once, and during the
first watch a heavy sea landed on the bridge, burst in
the bridge opposite the wheel, smashed up a searchlight,
carried away the bridge ladder, and did other damage.
The gunner (T ) had his head cut open.
" When I went up for the middle it was a disgusting
night. I held out till 3 a.m., and had great hopes of
keeping the enemy at bay till 4 a.m., when I knew
that I could laugh at him in my bunk.
" Drink was the cause of my downfall, like many a
good man before me. I foolishly drank cocoa at 3.15
the result was instantaneous. All to-day (Sept. 5,
1916) we have been wallowing about towards the Danish
coast. We have been at action stations all day. I
hear we go home to-night.
" Sept. 16, 1916. Jutland Honours List came out
and caused a good many smiles and heart-burnings
too, I dare say.
" Oct. 4, 1916. Up at Scapa Dublin and ourselves
did a sweep lasting forty-eight hours in the Dogger
" Oct. 7, 1916. Left Scapa and came back to Rosyth.
There was some sweep in the Dogger Bank area on the
tapis, and Birmingham and ourselves were detailed for it.
" Oct. 18, 1916. The day appointed for our depart-
ure, it blew so hard that it was quite impracticable for
destroyers to keep the sea outside, so the affair was
postponed for twenty-four hours. Next day we were
again all of a quiver during the morning. But it was
still blowing very hard, and once more it was postponed.
" Next day we were told to start, and we did. So at
noon, with four Torpedo-boat Destroyers in company,
we shoved off.
CARRYING ON 175
" By 5.30, the wind having veered to W.N.W., we
began to feel it as we got away from the land. Two of
our destroyers had their bridges smashed in, so we sent
them all back. At 8 p.m. we were labouring along in a
heavy sea, and had to ease speed to eight knots. At
9 p.m. we received a wireless to return to base. We
anchored the ship at 2.30 a.m., a task I performed and
found a chilly one.
" Turned out at 6.30 a.m. and coaled ship.
" At noon we received a signal to revert to four hours'
notice for steam. We were hastily shifting for a run
ashore when at 12.30 we received a signal ' Southamp-
ton and Birmingham raise steam with all despatch and
report when ready to proceed.'
" A collection of snappy officers gathered round the
ward-room stove to curse the gentleman on the staff,
unknown to us, who was responsible for all this counter-
marching. I had my gaiters on, and registered a vow
not to remove them till the anchor left the bottom.
" At 2.40 p.m., five minutes before we were due to
weigh, a signal came cancelling everything and putting
us back at four hours' notice."
It was about this time that we heard that our very
old and trusted friend the Birmingham was due to
leave the squadron and pay off owing to " boileritis,"
an affliction of the boiler tubes which few light cruisers
have escaped, at least speaking of those built before the
war. Whilst on this subject it should be recorded that
whereas before the war a ship of the Southampton class
would steam about on cruises at a speed of 14 knots
with a quarterly full speed trial for a few hours, during
the war she never went less than 20 knots if the weather
permitted her to do so.
Yet notwithstanding this great difference between
peace and war-time practice, added to the greater
distance steamed, the British Fleet was marvellously
176 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
free from engineering troubles. Which was a feather
in two caps. Firstly, in the cap of the engineering
firms of the country ; and secondly, it was one in the
cap of our engineer officers.
But to resume.
When we heard that the Birmingham was really
going to desert us, after three years' comradeship, it was
decided that we must dine their mess en masse.
After several false starts, due to short notice,
" panics," " flaps," and similar whatnots, the great
night arrived. We were at four hours' notice, the Hun
was reported to be well up the canal, and we prepared
to forget the war for a few hours.
Extra tables were squeezed into the mess, which was
packed. Our local artists (the two doctors) did water-
colours on the backs of the menu cards, each one
representing an incident in the Birmingham's past
The Commodore came in and made a speech, the
band played noisily, the mess-man surpassed himself,
and the wine caterer produced some champagne he had
been hiding till the end of the war. After dinner we
all went up to the picture palace in the waist and saw
Charlie, after which we repaired to the ward-room and
" harmony ensued," as the local paper would have
said. A special feature was a topical song in honour of
the Birmingham, the chorus of which was simple ; it
consisted of the Birmingham's list of officers as shown
in the Navy List. There were fifteen verses ! But it
was encored in toto.
At ii p.m. the order was passed that " coats will
be taken off." This operation, by virtue of the fact
that it removes all signs of rank as well as the most
expensive portion of a naval officer's uniform, permits
of much violent exercise being taken.
The centre of attractions in the carnival which
followed were :
CARRYING ON 177
" YE OLDE ARME-CHAIR "
" YE ROUND TABLE."
Two very simple articles of furniture, and yet what a
lot can be done with them.
For instance. " Ye olde arme-chair " is placed in an
open space, and a gallop started on the piano, tempo
con fuoco. Everyone lines up in two lines, facing
each other, with the chair between them. At the word
Go, the leading officer of the line facing the front of the
chair runs and leaps at it feet foremost. This pivots
the chair on its hind legs, and with a crash he lands
sitting in it with the chair's back on the ground. The
leader on the other side now rushes forward and, leap-
ing into the chair, strikes the forward edge of the seat,
and pivoting again, the chair resumes its normal
position. The game gets faster and faster, and the
chair rocks backwards and forwards like a pendulum
until one of its legs breaks.
" Ye round table " is of the three-legged variety with
a top about 5 feet in diameter. With the table one
can play many games, a good one being " Swat the
Three strong officers seize the table by its legs and,
holding it as a shield before them, rush round the mess
trying to pin a fly between the top of the table and the
ship's side. It was not uncommon with us for the flies
to combine and, by exerting superior pressure, nip the
" swatters " between the end of the table legs and the
side of the mess. After a short bout of this game, the
top usually came off, due to some ambitious gentlemen
trying the " round the world on a wheel " stunt, or the
" great gyroscopic turn."
On the night which was ever after spoken of as
" Birmingham's night," we did all these things and
ended up with free dancing a la Mordkin and Pavlova.
178 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
A healthy row with our new commander at 12.30 a.m.
on the quarter-deck concluded a memorable evening.
And, as the great diarist would have written
" And so to bed, no one foxed, it being time of war,
all save myself (not foxed), but not to bed, for I had a
plaguy middle watch to keep."
On the 28th November Sir David Beatty hoisted his
flag as Acting Admiral in command of the Grand Fleet.
This was the first of many changes, one of which hit us
very hard, as our Rear- Admiral was appointed away to
hoist his flag in the Orion. I think he felt leaving the
ship as much as we felt losing him and his staff and
that was a great deal.
He was succeeded by Commodore C. F. Lambert,
with Captain Lecky as captain of the ship, who relieved
Captain Crawfurd, who had relieved our Commander
Rushton, promoted to captain over Jutland.
The new Commodore took up his appointment a day
or two before Christmas. He walked round the
divisions on Christmas Day, and on arriving at the first
" What division is this ? "
" Boys' division, sir ! "
" Ha ! I wish the boys a Merry Christmas." Then
turning to the officer of the division he said
" When was their underclothing mustered last ? "
The gunnery lieutenant was so taken aback by this
sudden broadside that he could only mutter in an abso-
lutely inarticulate manner, whilst I began to tremble in
my shoes lest he should ask to see my divisional cloth-
ing book, which at that moment was far from ready for
inspection. However, I was spared the shame of
A day or two after the new Commodore arrived on
board, we went to Scapa, and from that base we were
detailed for a vile patrol between the Faroe and Shet-
land Islands, in typical January weather. We arrived
CARRYING ON 179
at Scapa at 5 p.m. on the I5th and started coaling
This is what I wrote about that coaling, the next day.
" It was the most abominable coaling I have ever
taken part in, and I have done 192 since the war
started. An ugly great whelp of a collier came along-
side (it was of course dark), and after a great deal of
juggling we found that we could just use three or four
holds, by landing the foremost hoist on the forecastle.
" Her derricks were not long enough, and B and
myself were unable to get hoists from our holds over the
ship's boat-deck. Each hoist as it came up had to be
pulled in by the party inboard, and released at the
critical moment by the winch-man in the collier. This
entailed very nice judgment on his part, and it was
absolutely essential to success that he should be able to
watch the hoist the whole time.
" The mate of the collier told me that ' she had come
by an accident, and that the exhaust steam-pipes from
her winches were a little defective.' He lied her
winches had no exhaust pipes at all, they had been
broken off at the scuppers.
" As soon as I raised my first ten bags up to test the
gear, dense clouds of steam rose between the two ships,
and completely obscured the Southampton.
" It began to rain.
" For an hour and a half not a bag of coal was got on
to the Southampton's deck.
" In the wet coal-dust, and in the crude glare of
electric arc lights, each officer fought his winch and
tried to devise some methods of either condensing the
exhaust steam or leading it out of the way. I tried wet
sacks the steam laughed at them ; eventually we all
found that the only partial remedy were lengths of
hose-pipes tied over the broken exhaust pipes and triced
up the rigging. These kept on blowing off or splitting,
and slowly the night dragged on. The men got more
180 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
and more weary and bored with the operation, and as
the hours slowly succeeded each other the collier's gear
began to break down.
" We eventually finished at 2.30 a.m., and sat down
to a much-needed sardine supper.
" By Jove ! she was a bitch of a ship, and I would
dearly love to kill the coaling officer who landed us with
her. I find she hasn't coaled a ship for fifteen weeks.
I suppose they all know about her here, and she is
reserved for unsuspecting strangers like ourselves. It
appears that she was a banana ship before the war, and
the sooner she gets back to her trade the better. As a
collier she is too rose-coloured for words.
" Jan. 22, 1917. We have been out on a good many
sweeps of one kind and another, and have had a great
misfortune in the ship.
" Last Friday morning, at about 7 a.m., when 100
miles east of May Island, the cover of the navel pipe
carried away, and as we were plunging into a very con-
siderable sea, about a hundred tons of water got down
into the cable lockers.
" Our first lieutenant and navigator, Ralph Ireland,
who was temporarily doing executive officer of the ship,
went down to put a mat over the hole. The mate, the
gunnery lieutenant, and three men were already on the
" The ship dipped her nose into the sea, and scooped
up a big sea which carried every one off their feet.
When it passed, ' guns ' and the mate were lying in
the breakwater only bruised, but of the others nothing
more was ever seen. Clad as they were in sweaters,
sea-boots, and oilskins, they must have sunk at once
in the sea that was running.
" An hour later we read the burial service in the
waist, when at about the spot where they were lost. A
driving snowstorm added to the almost unbearable
melancholy of the service.
CARRYING ON l8l
" Ralph Ireland, our Number I, was a great friend of
mine, with whom only a few hours before I had been
yarning on the bridge, and but twelve hours before we
had been rehearsing our parts together in a home-made
revue we intended to produce. He had come to us
from the Birmingham when that ship paid oft. His
death under such tragic circumstances together with
the three sailors caused a deep gloom in the ship, where
he was immensely popular. Ireland was a very lovable
personality brilliantly clever, a King's medallist, an
athlete, he was marked out for certain advancement in
the Service. It was not to be, and within a few days of
his twenty-eighth birthday the North Sea claimed him
as part of the price of Admiralty.
" Jan. 29, 1917. Herewith the diary of a ' flap '
" 5 a.m. Went to two hours' notice.
" 12.30 p.m. Sailing.
" 12.45 p.m. Cancelled one hour's notice.
" 1.30 p.m. Two and a half hours' notice.
" 8 p.m. One hour's notice.
" 10 a.m. Two hours' notice.
" 12.40 p.m. Sailing.
" 12.50 p.m. Cancelled.
" 12.55 p.m. Half an hour's notice.
" 1.30 p.m. Sailed. Swept up past the Norwegian
coast, which was looking very picturesque in its winter
covering of snow ; but it was bitterly cold in the
fore-top where I had to spend the day. Went to
" Feb. 9, 1917. A three days' patrol in 62 N. We
saw one antique German mine.
" Feb. 17, 1917. Back at Rosyth.
" Mar. 20, 1917. Made my last trip in H.M.S.
Southampton, for when we returned to harbour I found
that, in accordance with my request some months ago,
I had been appointed to H.M.S. Ramillies on com-
l82 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" Mar. 25, 1917. Arrived in London. I left H.M.S.
Southampton yesterday morning. The night before I
left there was a concert at which I sang a potpourri of
all my topical songs, and could hardly go on as
everybody was so nice. They dined me in the ward-
room, and then insisted on undressing me and putting
me to bed at I a.m. (May I be allowed to remind any-
one who may come across this diary that I am a tee-
" Next morning I left the ship. The band played
' Lying off Limekilns ' one of my songs which nearly
led to a free fight between our sailors and those from
another light cruiser squadron one day when our
' matelots ' sang it to them ashore and the sailors
gave me a very nice send-off.
" It was a very great wrench to part from the South-
ampton after three years ; but in the Navy these things
must happen, and I had been considerably longer in
her than any other officer, and nearly all the men and
a change is good for everyone. I can never hope to
serve with nicer mess-mates, or be in a happier ship.
Long may her name be on the Navy List."
H.M.S. RAMILLIES is le dernier cri in battleships,
and I could hardly have chosen a bigger change than
to have gone from the Southampton to this ship.
Of the Royal Sovereign class, she is heavily armoured,
and disposes of eight 15-inch guns and a 6-inch second-
ary battery each side. At the time when she was
commissioned, in the spring of 1917, she was unique in
that she was the first capital ship to be fitted with
protective " bulges " or " blisters " on her sides as a
counter to torpedo attack.
When I left the Southampton she was completing at
Beardmore's on the Clyde, and was not to be ready for
some weeks. I filled in time, by first going on leave,
from which pastime I was ordered to report myself at
Whale Island, the gunnery school at Portsmouth, and
rub up my big ship gunnery, as in the Ramillies I had
volunteered to take charge of the main transmitting
room and its various jealously guarded secrets.
On arrival at Whaley, I found a strange and melan-
choly change had taken place in the three years of war.
In days of peace Whaley was a scene of " frightful "
activity from dawn to dusk. One went to Whaley as
junior officer expecting to be shaken, and no one was
ever disappointed. At the rising of the lark crowds of
sub-lieutenants, snotties, yea, even lieutenants and
sailors, sweated round the obstacle course which exists
on " THE I SLAND . " As the day began , so it carried on
at the rush. Walking became a forgotten habit every-
thing was done at the run, except funeral exercises.
184 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
The parade ground presented an animated appearance,
as squads of officers and men, the former invariably
clad in white flannels and gaiters the outward sign
of being under instruction were drilled in rifle drill,
gun drill, and field exercises by brazen-lunged ramrod-
backed gunners' mates.
The " Whaley " gunners' mate, with a voice that
carried a quarter of a mile in a gale of wind, was the
counterpart of the Sergeant of the Guard :
" Now class, 'shun ! Stand at EASE ! Wake up in
the rear rank Sub-Lootenant Jones, sir ! Class, 'shun !
Now wot I sez GOES ! "
And what they did say went, or else the black-
trousered, horny-eyed, immaculate lieutenant-com-
manders and commanders who prowled about seeking
whom they might devour, and never fasting, wanted to
know the reason why. These were " THE STAFF "
officers of super-smartness, who had devoted choice
years of their lives to the study of the great god
In the instructional sheds and batteries that ring
round the Island the same furious energy was main-
tained. Guns' crews sweated and blasphemed in their
efforts to load a 6-inch gun twenty times a minute
instead of nineteen.
Half a mile away across the mud-flats the old three-
decker Vernon and her appendages lay placidly on
the water. This was the torpedo school run on some-
what different lines. More of her anon. Day after
day the Staff at Whaley laboured from morning to
night to smarten people up, and stuff them with gun-
nery, and they performed marvels.
Day after day the voices of the gunners' mates rose
on the air with :
" On the corpse leaving the dead 'ouse, mort-tuary,
or whatnot, fer the scimitery, or groive, the few-nereal
party will rest on the arms re-versed, 'anging the 'ead
H.M.S. R A MILLIES 185
on the breast with a melan-choly yet resign 'd arspect."
Or else :
" Now the h'objec' of the rebound spring is NOT
(fortissimo), as some 'ave herroneously said, to absorb
the recoil of th' gun, BUT on the hobturatin' pad re-
hasserting himself the mush-room 'ead springin' to the
front, . . . etc. etc."
Such is a brief and inadequate sketch of Whaley in
peace time. Such was my conception of the place I
was about to join.
As my cab rumbled over the bridge which separates
Whaley from the attractions of Portsmouth, I perceived
the formidable obstructions of the obstacle course and
shuddered. Ugh ! fancy going over these ropes at my
age twenty-five and three years of war service, it was
incredible, and yet strange things happen at Whale
Island. Yes, very strange things had happened at
Whaley in the years of war, which I very soon dis-
The Staff, affable officers temporarily at Whaley on
their return home from foreign service, and awaiting
appointments to the Grand Fleet, conversed with
interested attention to the lieutenant straight from
the mysterious Grand Fleet itself.
What was the life like ?
What were the latest ideas on fire control ?
What sort of ranges were battle practices done at ?
What was the anti-submarine gunnery organization
There were three of us from the Grand Fleet ships
waiting to go to the Ramillies, and we stood in front of
the hall fire and laid down the law.
Once or twice I wandered round the batteries it
was pathetic ancient old pensioners unfit for sea ser-
vice quavered out the drill. The classes were often
composed of elderly R.N.R. officers, fathers of families ;
l86 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
doing an anti-submarine course, they moved from place
to place at a dignified walk. You can hardly hunt
the captain of an i8,ooo-ton liner across a parade
Then I realized that " for the duration " the focal
spot of the radiance of gunnery was situated in the
Grand Fleet, that was the explanation.
Whaley was being used for experimental work, and
the training in the elements of gunnery of hundreds of
R.N.R.s, R.N.V.R.s, officers and men. They came,
they learnt a few simple facts, and in ten days they
I decided to do likewise, and departed, to do a special
course in London by arrangement with the gunnery
lieutenant of the Ramillies, whom I had not met. The
readiness with which he agreed to this request on my
part made me feel sure we should get on together.
After more leave of about ten days, I was ordered
to repair to Glasgow to join the ship on commissioning.
I had always heard that commissioning a big ship was
a fearful agony, but found the actual event quite a
Three hundred of our men were already on the spot,
living in the Town Hall at Dalmuir, and these went on
At 9 a.m. a special train with 500 men on board
arrived from Devonport, and drew up near the ship.
As each man got out of the train he was given a com-
missioning card, which tells him exactly where he has
got to go, which part of the ship he belongs to, and
what he must do in various emergencies.
In the afternoon we exercised, " fire," " collision,"
and " action " stations.
That night we all slept on board for the first time;
it was most uncomfortable living in the ship, as there
was no water on, no lights would work, and the ship
abounded with dockyard workmen, who made the night
H.M.S. RAMILLIES 187
hideous with pneumatic riveters, electric drills, and
caulking tools. Sleep was well-nigh impossible.
On May yth we left Beardmore's, still full of dock-
yard workers, and towed by six tugs we started down
Magnificent as the ship looked above water, appear-
ances were deceptive, and all was not well with the
Ramillies. When she had been launched, she had
charged across the river and hit the opposite bank.
This contretemps had damaged her bottom, cracked
her great stern post, and more or less destroyed the
larger and more important of her two rudders.
As there is no dock on the Clyde big enough to take
the ship, we were faced with the problem of getting
the vessel to the Gladstone dock at Liverpool, where the
extent of the damage could be accurately ascertained
and the necessary repairs carried out.
We set out down the Clyde at about two o'clock on a
lovely afternoon, sped on our stately way by the cheers
of thousands of men and women who had raised up
this ship, from the bare keel laid down in 1914.
Of all the acts of modern man, this never ceases
to astonish me vastly, this gradual assembling of a
hundred thousand intricate parts, and then their co-
ordination into one harmonious whole a battleship.
As we went downstream, four tugs astern and two
ahead, an aeroplane looped the loop and did other
stunts just above the tops of our masts. All went well
until we had just passed Dumbarton Rock, when, with-
out warning, she sheered off to starboard, and despite
desperate efforts on the part of the tugs she grounded
heavily. To make matters worse the tide began to
All the tugs churned up the water and the mud as
they struggled to get us off. There were some amazing
jumbles of tugs round our stern. One tug had her
mast snapped off like a match by a wire flicking across
l88 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
like a released violin string, another wire got under the
paddle-wheel of another tug and threatened to turn the
whole tug upside down. Greatly alarmed, the crew of
the tug hastily severed the wire with an axe.
Our quarter-deck was a mass of seething, writhing,
coiling of large wires and hemp. A large wire is a
most dangerous thing when it alternately takes and
releases a heavy strain. It seems to be possessed with
almost human intelligence and diabolical mischievous-
ness ; large wires must be watched very carefully treat
them with contempt and they will catch you in a coil
and have your leg off. When they hum, and quiver,
and sing, stand clear ! they are about to part. We
completely blocked the traffic both up and down the
river, and in the Clyde an accumulation soon takes
At 4 p.m. we suddenly slid off the mud, and nearly
grounded on the other side of the channel.
Our troubles had only started. Two miles farther
on, off Gourock, we grounded bang in the middle of
Owing to our first delay the tide had fallen too much,
and we could not get over the bar. It was hopeless to
try and get on, and we lay there until midnight. As
the tide fell, our huge blisters on the sides came into
view, and she looked like a monstrous great fort ; at
low water we only had 14 feet under our bottom, and
owing to lack of circulating water the condensers were
overheating and everything in the engine-room began
to fill with mud.
On getting off again it began to blow, and we had
several narrow squeaks, as the tugs were small and had
little control over the ship, which dragged them about
like toys when she yawed. At 2.30 a.m. we more or
less drifted into deep water off Greenock and thankfully
let go an anchor.
These various bumps had not improved our existing
H.M.S. RAMILLIES 189
injuries, but we decided to try and start for Liverpool
on the loth May. We had four tugs to get us clear
of the Clyde, and four destroyers and sweepers as escort
in the open sea.
As soon as we started, we began to surge about in a
disconcerting manner, and notwithstanding every effort
on the part of the tugs, we drifted (there is no other
word) more or less broadside on through the anti-
submarine gate, hitting, but not damaging, one of the
trawlers moored as gate-post.
Once through the gate we cast off the tugs and tried
to steer with our own engines. Each time we went
ahead, she kept perfectly straight until we had reached
a speed of about 4 knots, whereupon she would swerve
rapidly either to port or to starboard ; it being quite
impossible to predict which of the two shores she would
make a bee-line towards. This behaviour entailed im-
mediate " Full speed astern both engines " to avert a
By noon, three hours after our departure, we had
made good 3 miles towards Liverpool in a series of
gigantic semicircular swoops. It was now obvious
that the ship was unmanageable under her engines
alone, so with four tugs dragging first one way and then
the other we waddled back to our anchorage, and
managing to hit off the gate entrance in the arc of one
swoop we " came to " off the Tail o' Bank at 5 p.m.
Thus ended our first attempt.
At the time I wrote :
" May ii. Bowler-hatted experts from Beardmore's
are now on board discussing the situation, which seems
an awkward one. It would be almost impossible for us
to get to Liverpool on our own under peace conditions,
and with submarines about it would be madness,
except that we swerve about so that I don't believe
they could hit us ! We'd hit either England or Ireland
though ! Divers are going down to have a look at the
NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
rudder, and if it is very mis-shapen there is some talk
of trying to cut it off a big under-water job. The
question is, how much rudder is down there ? I think
the best thing would be to have an escort of about 12
T.B.D.s and then tow a tramp and make her steer
" There are rumours of a congregation of Fritzes
outside ; perhaps they have got wind of this entertain-
" Monday, May 14. On Saturday we tried again, as
the bowler-hat brigade discovered that only a small bit
of the large rudder remains. We stayed inside the gate
this time, and as far as the steering of the ship was con-
cerned it was a dismal failure. The small rudder has
about as much effect on her as if I dangled my foot
over the side, and there was nothing doing at all in the
direction of steering her with the engines. Once she
starts swinging one way or the other, she goes on until
her stern is up in the wind. The only way to get her
straight is to stop and turn her on her heel. Swooped
back to our anchorage at 6 p.m. She has got Clyde
Bolshevism in her plates, and doesn't want to go to the
" The skipper has been summoned to the Admiralty.
" May 23, 1917. At n a.m. we set out on our
ticklish journey to Liverpool. Large protuberances
resembling cantilevers of a fair-sized bridge have been
tacked on to our stern, one on each quarter. They call
them ' whiskers,' and the idea is that the stern tow
ropes shall go round them, and give the tugs a better
leverage. We had quite an imposing escort, consisting
of eight sweepers, eight Liverpool tugs (fine fat fellows),
eight trawlers, and six destroyers.
" The scheme is to have the sweepers ahead, an outer
screen of T.B.D.s, and an inner screen of trawlers.
Four tugs in two tandems tow us forward ; four tugs
are aft, two on each quarter. The whiskers are useless,
H.M.S. RAMILLIES IQI
as the tug masters flatly refuse to use them, saying the
whiskers would part their wires.
" We successfully managed the gate entrance, and
slowly went down river. At I p.m. we passed the
Cumbraes Light, and at 2.30 p.m., about six miles
farther on, the trawler Merse, one of our inner screen,
when distant about a mile on our port bow, struck a
mine and was blown to atoms. There was a large
cloud of white and grey smoke, a report, and in a few
seconds this cleared away and there was nothing except
an oily patch and a few pieces of wood.
" She was the senior officer of trawlers' ship, and her
two officers, including the captain, Lieutenant Fane,
R.N.R., were in our smoking-room this morning.
There were no survivors out of the crew of 15.
" I was on watch at the time, and the ' cat on hot
bricks ' feeling was rather unpleasant as we slowly
passed the place where she had gone. We were for-
tunately able to warn a heavily laden passenger ship
from Brodick that was steering straight for the spot
where the Merse went down. At half -past eight we
drifted past Ailsa Crag, which looked very beautiful
with the sun sinking behind it.
" The weather was gloriously fine, which was lucky,
as she yawed abominably from three to seven points
off her course. Speed made good 4^ knots ! and our
contract speed is 23 !
" I had the middle watch, and felt very lost 80 feet
above the water and with 500 feet of ship behind me,
and 45 feet each side, after the modest dimensions of
" A breeze sprang up which made it very hard to
steer her. We do it by signalling to the quarter-decks
with coloured lamps, and by careful manipulation of the
engines, as one has to be very much on one's guard
against overrunning the tandems . The tide set against us
in my watch, and at times we only made good 2 knots !
NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" May 23, 1917. Our run from noon yesterday to
noon to-day was 108 miles.
" The weather continues fine and hazy, which suits
us, as I can't imagine what she'd do in the slightest lop.
We are slowly creeping down with the Isle of Man on
our starboard beam. A submarine was reported here
yesterday ; in one way it would be interesting to see
the effect of a torpedo on these blisters. I think we
could stomach one. At present (2 p.m.) I am going
to get my head down for an hour and repair the ravages
of the middle last night.
" May 24, 1917. Arrived at Liverpool and lay for
the day in the stream.
" It was ludicrous to see Cammell Laird's hard at
work cutting off the whiskers which had been put on in
such a hurry at Glasgow and then never used. We
can't dock till they are off.
" May 25, 1917. Entered Gladstone Dock, and
bumped on the way in, but not badly."
On the 7th September I left H.M.S. Ramillies, and
left her still in the Gladstone Dock. I had been ap-
pointed to the torpedo school, H.M.S. Vernon, to do a
course in torpedo work, electricity, mining, and wireless,
with the object of emerging at the end of the course
as a qualified lieutenant (T ) and being appointed
somewhere as a specialist at an increased rate of 35. a
day. I had placed my name on the waiting list for the
Vernon early in 1916, so I was not surprised when my
appointment came through.
Thus ended my brief service in the Ramillies, in
which I made one trip in tow of tugs.
H.M.S. Vernon, the home of torpedoes and electrics,
was an old three-decker hulk which lay amidst the mud
at the upper end of Portsmouth harbour. In actual
fact she was four old ships three connected together
by bridges, and the fourth lashed alongside. For a big
instructional school she suffered from the grave dis-
advantage of not being alongside a jetty. This was
being remedied in 1917, as the whole establishment was
gradually migrating to the gun-wharf, whither the
mining school, own child to the Vernon, had already
There were nine of us undergoing the course, which
lasted six months, with frequent exams. The work was
fairly strenuous but very interesting, and nobody cared
how hard he worked during the week, as on Friday
afternoon, week-ends until Sunday night were available.
Incidentally, the Whaley week-end was not of such
generous proportions, being only from Saturday morn-
ing to Sunday night.
The Vernon has a totally different atmosphere to
Whale Island, and the difference between the two
establishments is reflected in the difference between the
average torpedo lieutenant and the average gunnery
lieutenant. It has been said in the Service that the
" gunnery jacks' " motto is " GUNS, GAITERS, AND
GHUFF," whilst " Torps " live up to " COOL, CALM,
AND COLLECTED." Pretending enemies of Whale
Island say gunnery lieutenants are nothing but
" GHUFF " ; whilst those who pretend a similar enmity
to all things that come from the Vernon, say that
194 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
torpedo men are always so calm and collected that
whenever anything happens they are always asleep.
However, like the jokes levelled at different branches
of the Army, all these things make a good story, and in
actual practice in a ship the gunnery lieutenant and his
opposite number in the torpedo world are generally
hand in glove with each other, concocting schemes which
they think will improve the efficiency of the ship,
but which everyone else thinks are a confounded
The naval war at Portsmouth was chiefly visible in
the movements of the patrol boats. These war-
designed and quickly built boats did excellent service
escorting the troop-ships across the Channel. Every
evening they left the harbour, took a convoy over to
France, and then hurried back to Portsmouth, arriving
there at u a.m. They fuelled and were then ready to
go out again that evening.
Each boat did this for three weeks and then had a
week's rest. It was tiring work, but there was always
a chance of a Fritz.
Nearly every week-end I was up in London, and I
was there when the great German spring offensive
started and continued its irresistible advance.
It was a wonderful experience to be in the heart of
the Empire on those days of tremendous peril. I rank
it second only to Jutland amongst the experiences that
have interested me most in the war. Day by day the
line went back on the big map in the club, and one
began to measure by eye the distance to the Channel
It was with a feeling of awe that I watched generals
come in to lunch from the War Office, looking perhaps
a little more preoccupied than usual, as I wondered
what they thought about it ; they, who were in the
I felt very helpless, being in the Navy, for surely
H.M.S. VERNON 195
those were days in which everyone ought to do some-
thing, and here was I sitting in front of a map at a club
it didn't seem right.
In the streets and restaurants of London there was a
sense of strain, a tension ; London was bracing herself
up to hear bad news, and right well she did bear it, as
day succeeded day and still the Hunnish hordes swept
on. There was not a sign of any inclination to give in
in London, or admit any ending to the war except
eventual victory for the Allies. In tubes, one looked
over one's neighbour's paper and he said, " They've
crossed the Somme "
" Ah !" you replied.
" If this goes on, we shall have to evacuate the
" But surely "
" It will only add a couple of years to the war."
This was the type of conversation that could be
heard on every side in London.
The situation was grave, there was no attempt to
conceal the fact it was seriously grave, and London
knew it ; but her heart beat as strong as it did in the
days Napoleon dominated Europe, and Pitt lay dying
London never forgets she is the chief city of the
greatest Empire the world has ever known. It is
possible to startle London, but she cannot be frightened.
The first air raid startled London, but she soon treated
them as a joke in the worst possible taste.
I saw London startled once.
It was during the great German advance, and rather
against my will I joined a party for a dance. None of
us felt very keen on dancing, but it was being given by
three soldiers who were leaving for France next day.
Of those three, but two are left, so I am glad we went,
if it helped the party at all.
I was standing in a doorway, when a man in evening
ig6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
dress came into the house, and came up the stairs. He
stopped by me and said :
" Have you heard ? "
" What ? " I replied.
" Paris is being bombarded."
" Paris is being bombarded," he repeated.
" My dear fellow, how on earth "
"I've just come from my club, and saw it come
through on the tape-machine it's official."
" But how on earth could they ? They're 80 miles
" Exactly, no details are given ; but I'm a civilian
and I don't know. I thought if you were in either of
the Services you could tell me, is it possible ? "
" I'm in the Navy, but I've met guns, and I don't
believe it is possible."
" But it says Paris is being bombarded offi-
" Well, I give it up," I replied as a third man joined
us, who had also come from his club and was able to
confirm the amazing intelligence.
A hush spread over the room as the news travelled
round ; half the people were frankly incredulous and
said so, the other half were bewildered and jolted out
of their attitude of expecting even the strangest things
to happen in this war as a matter of course. I believed
and felt I could dance no more, and walked home.
Paris La Ville lumiere that charming, flirtatious,
delightfully naughty girl amongst the cities of the world,
being lashed by Boche shells. One shuddered at the
thought, it was like contemplating a pretty girl being
beaten by a drunkard and it wasn't a matter of con-
templation, it was an actual fact, just over there, a few
hundred miles away. Poor Paris !
I am afraid I have strayed rather from the title of
H.M.S. VERNON 197
my book, but the physical labour of writing entitles the
scribe to occasional darts into forbidden and therefore
fascinating lands, otherwise one wearies of the under-
Life in the Vernon was very like what it is at any
other big training establishment. Amongst a great
many facts I was privileged to glean one of the most
remarkable definitions of an alternating current ever
put before the scientific world.
The lecturer was an old gunner called up for the
duration, and the subject of his discourse to a class of
newly joined electrical artificers was " Simple Cells."
One of his class, wishing to show he had heard of
electricity before, raised his hand and asked what an
alternating current was. For a moment the old man
hesitated, then pulling himself together he bellowed at
the class as follows :
" The exact understanding of an halternatin' current
ain't rightly understood by only scientific men ; but I
SEZ as 'ow it's a positive current a-nippin' along a wire
follered at a short relapse by a negative current a-
nippin' along after it, but one don't never catch the
other no-how, savee ? "
Beneath this bombardment the heckler bowed his
Having overcome all the examinations I added the
letter (T) to my name in the Navy List, and after a few
days in town to celebrate the occasion and spend in
advance some of the extra shillings a day, I was
appointed to H.M.S. Defiance, the Torpedo School at
Devonport, for temporary duty on the staff.
The Defiance consists of two old ships moored within
a few yards of the north shore of the St. Germans river.
It has the most delightful situation imaginable. A
stone 's-throw distant is a lovely garden, on which one
lands by an automatic ferry. A path winds up the hill
198 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
through the garden to the Defiance Halt on the Great
Western Railway. A quarter of a mile away are the
ship's private golf links, five sporting little holes on a
promontory jutting out into the river.
There was plenty of work in the Defiance, and the
strenuous atmosphere was well to the front. I spent
all days and part of the nights during the week lecturing,
setting papers, and correcting the latter.
At the end of April I was appointed to the Maidstone
as assistant torpedo lieutenant for duty with the Har-
wich submarines, and I left the Defiance to enjoy a
completely new series of experiences.
THE submarine has ever been a secret thing, and its
very raison d'etre presupposes secrecy and concealment,
and this perhaps is why so little is known about sub-
marines, outside the submarine service itself. The
ignorance is not by any means confined to the general
public, but is to be found on an extensive scale in the
general service of the Navy.
Before this war, submarine officers naturally knew to
a certain extent what their boats could do, though it is
certain that on neither side of the North Sea did the
average submarine officer realize what great potentiali-
ties were possessed by the best boats in 1914.
The rest of the Navy knew very little about sub-
marines. The average lieutenant, commander, or cap-
tain looked on submarines as dangerous craft into which
light-hearted and nerveless officers descended and went
out to the open sea, escorted by a ship flying a red flag ;
the submarine then dived and, after an uncertain
period, rose again in an unexpected spot. Sometimes
she never came up at all, and it was the general opinion
in the Service that the submarine fellows fully deserved
their extra six shillings a day.
Then came the war.
Until the advent of the big fleet submarines, towards
1917, the Grand Fleet hardly ever met a British sub-
marine. In my three years in the Southampton I met
British submarines at sea three times, and on two of
these occasions we thought they were Fritzes.
The Hogue-Aboukir-Cressy disaster woke everybody
200 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
up to the submarine menace, and from that day every
periscope seen at sea was an enemy to every surface
ship, and the submarine was never given the benefit of
the doubt, even when on the surface herself.
When the Germans decided to concentrate on the
submarine as a weapon with which to paralyse our
efforts and bring us to our knees, a vast anti-submarine
organization of destroyers, trawlers, sloops, yachts, P.
boats, motor-launches, aircraft, mines, nets, explosive
devices, etc., came into being, and the life of a sub-
marine at sea became a hard one.
The work of the British submarines in and out of the
North Sea has been of a very dangerous nature, as is
testified by the fact that their casualties in killed are a
higher percentage of the whole than the casualties in
killed of either the surface Navy, the Air Force, or the
Their work in the North Sea has been of two kinds.
Firstly, they have carried out the work of observation.
Secondly, they have played a large share in the plans of
the anti-submarine division at the Admiralty. Their
work of observation has perhaps been the most im-
portant of all their duties, though they have, of course,
attacked and sunk German surface craft on those infre-
quent occasions when the vision of a man-of-war
through the periscope has created a red-letter day in
the monotonous calendar of patrols.
In the Napoleonic wars Lord Nelson relied on his in-
shore squadrons, when he was cruising with his fleets
off Toulon or Brest, for information concerning the
movements of the enemy.
In 1914 Sir John Jellicoe was equally anxious to
obtain information of German movements, but it was
obviously impossible to keep a squadron of observation
hovering in the Bight. The Submarine Service stepped
into the breach, and, though the losses were heavy,
from 6th August, 1914 to i6th November, 1918,
British submarines were keeping observation on
the Bight and reporting by wireless any enemy
At first, indeed, our submarines had it very much
their own way, and they dived about with comparative
impunity inside Heligoland and even nosed about in the
entrances of the German rivers, one of our boats stick-
ing on the mud of the German coast for some time.
But the Germans soon decided to try and drive these
intruders out of the Bight, and, as it is a comparatively
small area of water, it was soon infested with every anti-
Our boats withdrew slightly, but still the Germans
found it almost impossible to get to the open sea with-
out being reported, and still the British boats pene-
trated into the Bight in search of targets. This " going
in," as it was called, though eagerly hoped for by sub-
marine captains, was attended by heavy risks, as the
way in led between our own minefields and those laid
by the enemy. Concerning the former, their position
could be stated with some certainty, but of the latter
dimensions there was inevitably an element of doubt.
This reminds me of the classic true story, which has
already appeared in a poem by " Klaxon," of the
stoker's remark in a Harwich submarine. The boat
was in dangerous waters and diving. Suddenly a loud
bumping noise was heard, and everyone held his
breath, as it was obviously a mine. The stoker looked
up from a game of cards and remarked
" Good old Tirpitz, another b y dud ! "
The second great work of our submarines in the
North Sea was anti-submarine work. The German
submarines had two ways out of the North Sea : Dover
or north-about. They had three holes into which to
(a) Round the Skaw and through the Belt to Kiel.
(b) Straight into the Bight, by various secret chan-
202 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
nels, and thence to Emden, Wilhelmshaven,
and the Elbe.
(c) Zeebrugge and Ostend.
On all lines of approaches to these places known to
be used by Fritz, and at the exits of the North Sea, not
to mention those in the outer seas, British submarines
were to be found. The U.-boats knew that our boats
were always lying in ambush for them, both on their
comings in and goings out.
Though I have never, of course, done it myself, I have
met and talked with many who have, and I think that
stalking a submarine in another submarine must be one
of the most thrilling things in war. Imagine yourself
in a British submarine on the surface. Suddenly the
captain raises his glasses, gazes at the horizon, then
orders " Dive ! " and presses a button which rings an
alarm in the boat. The Diesel engines are stopped, and
as those on the bridge scramble down the conning-tower,
the bows of the submarine begin to go under water. A
few seconds after the captain has pulled the outer
hatch down above his head, the waters close over with
Once in the control room, the captain gives orders for
the boat to be taken down to 60 feet, and then orders
full speed on the electric motors. Before coming down
he has decided on a rough course which he will steer
to close the suspicious object. Minutes pass, the cap-
tain tells the first lieutenant for the sixth time that it
might be a trawler, but he thinks it's a Fritz.
The first lieutenant, a sub or junior lieutenant, goes
forward and satisfies himself for the hundredth time
that both bow tubes are " standing by." The men are
at their diving stations, each with his definite job, and
probably they do not know what is happening the
captain has been too preoccupied to tell them they
watch his face for an indication of his thoughts.
At last the captain decides he will have another look ;
the speed of the boat is reduced to " slow " in order to
minimize the feather of the periscope through the
water, and the boat is brought up to 20 feet below the
surface. The periscope is raised, the captain stretches
himself up with it and looks.
" DOWN PERISCOPE ! Take her 40 feet."
Three miles away he has seen a fat Fritz ambling
along on what must be about a south course, at a speed
of approximately 10 knots. A hasty calculation, and
the captain orders a fresh alteration of course.
Two or three minutes later he takes another peep.
Confound the brute ! he has altered to starboard.
Can he have seen anything ? As things are it will be
touch and go whether we can get into range. Such are
the thoughts that run through the captain's mind as he
orders his coxswain to steer a fresh course, and demands
every ampere possible in the electric motors.
The submarine drives on at the furious speed, for
under water, of 9 knots. The critical moment is
approaching. The captain's anxiety communicates
itself to the boat's crew, and, without being told to do
so, a hush falls over the men and they converse in
Speed is reduced, and the torpedo tubes brought to
The periscope is raised for the last tune, if fortune
has been kind and our captain's calculations and esti-
mations accurate. There is the Hun just coming on
to the line of sight. Ninety degrees track angle.
Everything in the garden is lovely. If only those
torpedoes behave properly, the God of Battles has
delivered Fritz into our hands.
A second of terrible doubt, whilst like a flash a hun-
dred possibilities of what the second Dickey (first
lieutenant) may or may not have omitted to do to the
torpedoes, illuminates the captain's mind.
Too late to inquire now.
204 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" Stand by. FIRE ! "
There is a dull cough, a slight shake, and the tor-
pedoes leave their tubes. The captain, riveted to the
periscope, watches the tracks (if he is very strong-
minded he lowers the periscope as soon as he has fired).
There is a splash in the sea !
" O Lor ! one of the fish has broken surface, d
the torpedo staff, d the Vernon, d the first
lieutenant, d everything," mutters the captain.
But the Hun proceeds on his course ; he has seen
nothing. A paean of thanksgiving swells in the cap-
tain's heart. A minute has passed. Any moment
The Hun swings round. He has seen the track too
late to save himself.
The captain sees a flash, a mass of smoke, and when
it clears nothing. The crew hear and feel a dull de-
tonation. Surface !
Up comes the British boat and cruises over the grave
of her victim. It is important to get proof if possible.
They are such sceptical blokes at the anti-submarine
division. A live Hun is a good souvenir, a dead one a
better, but failing these a bit of a Hun, or some uniform
or wood from a submarine, or, at the worst, a bucket
of German fuel there will always be lots of that.
Then there comes the return to the depot, the cheer-
ing reception, the congratulations of the captain (S)
and the mess, the celebration in the mess, and finally,
a month or so later
London Gazette. To be a Companion of the Dis-
tinguished Service Order, Lieutenant John
Smith, R.N., for service in action against
That is one side of the picture. Of the other and
more frequent side, when no flash rewards the waiting
eye, let us not think it's so depressing. The mar-
vellous thing is that any submarine ever hits another
one, when the inevitable inaccuracies of the torpedo
as a weapon, and the extraordinary difficulties under
which an attack has to be made, are considered.
I must repeat, I have never attacked a Fritz myself,
though I was in a boat once when we started to attack
one. But people who have had dealings with Fritz
have kindly read the above account, and tell me that
they can recognize what it is supposed to be about
and that, from a mess-mate, is high praise indeed !
Any survey, however brief, of the work of our sub-
marines in this war in the North Sea would be incom-
plete without a few words concerning the " egg-layers,"
or mine-laying submarines.
The Germans used this type of craft on an extensive
scale, and the small " U.C." type of mine-layers, which
operated from the Flanders ports, was known in the
German Service as the suicide club, as their losses were
We also used submarine mine-layers, working from
Harwich, and many dangerous trips, not always with-
out loss, were undertaken by these craft.
I think the best one I know of was done by one of
the mine-layers soon after I reached Harwich. The
boat in question found a buoyed channel leading up to
Heligoland, trusted to her luck and followed the line of
buoys, eventually laying a minefield practically in the
anti-submarine gate of the boom near the island. One
of the most astounding features of the trip was that the
boat was on the surface whilst the mines were being
laid, and barely 200 yards away a German patrol boat
drifted about with her crew, singing songs on the fore-
The captain of that boat now wears a D.S.O.
Life in a submarine depot is quite different to that
206 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
in any other kind of depot, as the officers and crews of
the submarines do not live in their boats when in har-
bour, but they have quarters in the depot ship.
Consequently the depot ship is like a floating club,
and the submarines lie in serried rows alongside her.
As life in a submarine on a ten-days' patrol, in even the
finest weather, is not exactly a picnic, whilst in bad
weather it approaches the indescribable, everything
possible is done to refresh and rest the submarine crews
whilst they are in harbour between trips.
Every branch of the Service produces its own special
type, and the Submarine Service is no exception to this
rule. The submarine officer's job is more a one-man
show than any other job in the Service, and in this fact
lies its attraction ; and this explains why there are
always quantities of volunteers from the best type of
The submarine officer holds in the hollow of his hand
the lives of his crew and the safety of his boat ; so,
might it be argued, does the company officer, or the
lieutenant in command of a destroyer. In a sense, this
is true ; but at least in the latter cases the men see
where they are being led to.
In submarines they do not. Only about three of
the crew can see the gauges which tell them whether
they are at 3 feet or 300 feet below the surface. They
may not even know if they are being hunted, or whether
they are the hunter.
Suppose a submarine is cruising along on patrol, and
a flight of German seaplanes swoop down along the
glare of the sun's rays, as has often happened to our
boats, down she goes in a crash dive. If they are near
the German coast probably the seaplanes will soon have
destroyers on the scene. Bombs begin to fall. What
is to be done next ?
Keep the boat where she is, in the hope that they
will think she will move away ? Or move away in the
hopes that they will think she has stayed where she is ?
Fascinating psychological problem, but, meanwhile
more bombs fall sudden thought, is the depth insuffi-
cient ? Do they see a long, cigar-shaped shadow under
the sea ? No ! hardly possible in 150 feet. But
perhaps a tank is leaking ! Is there a trail of oil
meandering to the surface ?
They seem to have gone. Is it safe to come up and
have a peep, or are they sitting on the water waiting
for the boat to do this very thing ? Better give them
another half an hour.
The first lieutenant is told to start the gramophone
the sailors start eating.
What is this faint drumming noise that gets louder
and louder until it roars overhead like an express train ?
Destroyers' propellers without a doubt. All is silence
again. The strains of " Daddy, don't go down the
Mine To-night " die away (why do the sailors always
choose such inappropriate tunes ?). It would be
dangerous to move now ; probably the destroyers are
lying with their engines stopped, listening on their
hydrophones for the sound of the submarine's pro-
The boat stays where she is.
Ominous faint scratching sound heard aft, gets louder
and becomes a rasping sound which passes overhead
and dies away for'ard.
Every one breathes again. The jumping wire which
stretches from the bow to the stern over the conning-
tower has successfully deflected the wire or chair
sweep which the Germans are dragging along the
Question is : Do the Huns know roughly where the
boat is, or don't they ?
The boat shakes, and a few lights go out. This looks
208 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
bad ; depth charging so close as that would seem to
show they do know where the boat is.
Good ! farther away.
Excellent ! still farther away. That first one must
have been a lucky fluke.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Hullo ! they seem to have got the idea there's
something over there what's the rough bearing ?
Then this is her chance, and slowly the boat creeps
away to the southward, to rise at nightfall and charge
her electric batteries, and raise the slender mast from
which runs the delicate aerial with which she speaks
nightly to distant England. And some one at a roll-
top desk a few minutes later receives a flimsy signal
sheet on which is laconically recorded that
" In Lat. X.y. Long. P.q. bombed by seaplanes, and
subsequently attacked unsuccessfully by surface
craft, considered to be destroyers."
On the bridge of the submarine R says to C ,
" Pity Stevie wasn't doing a joy-ride with us ; he'd
have made a regular Daily Mail yarn out of that
muckodah ! "
To revert to submarine officers. To them responsi-
bility is the breath of life. Once clear of the harbour
and on their billet it's each for himself and a torpedo
take the hindmost.
A submarine officer in the British Service, which
differs in this respect from the U.-boat service, is also
au fait with all the technical details of his boat. He
thus has to be a bit of an oil-engine engineer, an
electrical engineer, and an hydraulic engineer, besides
being a navigator and a leader of men ; though it is
true the last quality is inborn and can hardly be made.
And yet with all these accomplishments the average
submarine officer is rather distrustful of novelties,
especially if they are of the nature of scientific instru-
I think this trait is due to the fact that submarines
are such a mass of mechanism in a small space that
even as an overloaded stomach will rebel against the
choicest foods, so do submarine officers look with in-
stinctive mistrust on any proposals to put more gear
into the boats " Save me from my scientific friends,"
is rather their cry.
When in harbour the submarine officer very sensibly,
like everyone else, has as good a time as he possibly
can. But the contrast between sea and harbour is so
great for a submarine officer that I think he enjoys the
delights of harbour, or perhaps I should say he appre-
ciates them, more than his brother in a battleship.
After all, even in a destroyer you can get a bath at
sea if you take the trouble to do so. You can also get
fresh air and sunlight too much of the former some-
Also, in war-time, with the submarine officer there is
an underlying feeling of, " Let us eat, drink, and be
merry, for to-morrow " Such a feeling is inevitable
in an admittedly dangerous Service.
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP
ON the 2oth April or thereabouts I found myself on
the platform of Parkestone Quay surrounded by
fifteen bits of luggage. Vague recollections of pre-
vious departures for Germany from Parkestone Quay
came back to me as I walked on to the quay and saw
two large steamers moored alongside.
I was directed to the Maidstone and there found
that the other ship was an overflow ship known as the
Pandora, one of her chief claims to fame being a super-
cocktail, which is known to the Submarine Service as
" The Pandora."
It was about 6 p.m., and I inquired for the com-
mander in order to report my arrival. I was directed
to " The Badminton Shed," where I found the officer
in question amongst a lot of ladies playing Badminton
with more energy than skill.
My opinion of the Maidstone at once rose to great
heights, as it was evident that the presence of war did
not preclude the presence of the gentler influences of
civilization a state of affairs which I have always
supported to the utmost.
A day or two was spent in exploring the depot, and
I found that there was a third ship farther down the
jetty, to wit, H.M.S. Forth.
Amongst other places of interest I discovered a
billiard-room, a whole series of torpedo, electrical, and
mining workshops and stores, a theatre, a rabbit warren
of offices, a chapel, and a pub. The " pub " was the
Parkestone Quay Hotel.
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP 211
Later on, when I had settled down, I bought a horse,
and I found stables in the establishment. In fact, it
would be difficult to say what we could not find in
Parkestone. I could continue for pages describing the
piggeries, the duckeries, the heneries, the Petty
Officers' Club, the periscope room, the wet canteen,
the dry canteen, the barber's shop, etc. etc.
It was, in fact, a small town in many ways. Over
all these shore establishments the commander of the
depot presided as Chief Magistrate under Captain (S).
The warlike side of the depot consisted of a flotilla
of " E " and " C " boats, mostly " E " boats with the
first of the " L " class of boats joining up as they were
finished. The bulk of the flotilla were " Es " boats
of pre-war design, but many of them war construction
excellent boats that have dived beneath all the waters
from the Murman Coast to the Azores, and from Gib-
raltar to Constantinople.
As soon as I had looked round the depot I decided
that I had better start learning my job ; as a torpedo
lieutenant's business in a submarine flotilla is quite
different to what it is anywhere else. My knowledge
of submarines was contained in the instinctive idea,
which three years in the Fleet had imbued into me,
that if one saw a periscope, one rammed it on sight.
In the course of the first six months at Harwich I
was able to learn quite a lot about submarines. I found
that my job was really a species of staff job on the staff
of the Captain (S ). The torpedo department carried
out big electrical repairs beyond the capacity of the
boats and supplied the boats with good torpedoes as
Every day when the weather permitted, three of the
boats in harbour went outside Harwich accompanied
by a destroyer, and dived in what was known as the
exercising ground, firing their torpedoes at the des-
212 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
It was frequently my business to go out in the
destroyer as marking officer.
Sometimes one submarine submerged, fired at
another one on the surface. If a torpedo behaved
badly when fired for exercise we withdrew it from the
boat and gave them another one.
I had immediate charge of the torpedo allocation,
and used to play a game with the first lieutenants of the
boats. If a torpedo ran badly, they said it was a
horrible thing given to them in bad condition by my
minions, whilst I said that the best torpedo in the world
required a little looking after.
The game consisted in both sides endeavouring to
obtain definite proof to bolster up the preliminary
statements and accusations which were made from both
sides as soon as the boat came in from exercising.
When the pile of papers to be dealt with in the office
became too nauseating, I generally accepted a standing
invitation which had been extended to me to go out for
a day's running in the boats.
On black days, torpedoes sank, and then I had to go
out and look for them, using an abomination known as
the single torpedo trawl. The sort of thing that hap-
pened which gave me a day of this amusement was as
" Come out running with us to-morrow, S ? "
suggested C .
" Well, I don't know whether I can manage it," I
replied. " There is a good deal going on in the depot."
"Oh, you can manage it," he answered.
" Well, what's the attraction ? " I inquired.
" I should have thought that the pleasure of a few
hours with R and myself would have attracted
you," he said ; " but since it requires other lures, I tell
you what, we'll give you some special submarine soup
I know that soup of old.
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP 213
" I shall be there. What time do you shove off ? "
" 10.30 a.m. unless the mail is late, when we wait as
long as we can till we're kicked out."
Next morning I proceeded outside the harbour in
H.M. Submarine " E "for the purpose of running her
torpedoes for exercise.
On arrival at the exercise ground, we selected a
spot free from light cruisers, destroyers, and mine-
sweepers, and dived. Our first movement was " to the
bottom," but after much pumping and blowing of tanks
we achieved the feat known as " catching a trim," and
proceeded to attack the destroyer, which goes out daily
to be fired at.
All things being in order, C poked his periscope
up, and fired a torpedo with what we hoped would prove
consummate skill. We surfaced, and were somewhat
upset to see the destroyer approaching us.
" Your torpedo broke surface and sank. I have
buoyed the spot," was the depressing signal we
With our minds full of dark suspicions we consumed
our submarine soup, as we jogged back to harbour.
C , as captain of the boat, suspected carelessness
on the part of the first lieutenant. The first lieutenant
suspected carelessness on the part of his torpedo
gunner's mate, who had got the torpedo ready.
Myself, as torpedo lieutenant, blamed the boat
collectively. All these were unspoken thoughts.
Aloud, my hosts insinuated that the torpedo as a
weapon was a wrong 'un. I, with their beautiful soup
warming the cockles of my heart, told strange tales of
torpedoes which had refused to run properly, although
they had passed every test. I felt I could do no less.
Next day I embarked on board the trawler John J.
Boot, to sweep for the missing lamb. We went along-
side the jetty to embark what is known as the " Single
Trawl." This consists of two enormous doors, or
214 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
wooden flaps, each weighing over a ton. The space
between them is bridged by a jungle of wire, with
quarter lines, tripping lines, head lines, and the whole
finished off and rendered delightfully ponderous with a
massive chain bottom line.
Skipper M'Pherson, R.N.R., 1 in charge of H.M. ship
/. Boot greeted me.
" Ahr ye the officer for the torpedo ? "
I admitted my identity.
' Yon terrawl is an unchristian beetch ta work," he
announced. " Ah've wurked her twice mysel', so I ken
weel she's a verra beetch of a terrawl," he added.
We began to get the " terrawl " into the ship by
M'Pherson directed operations in Scotch, with a
certain number of Anglo-Saxon adjectives.
" Ah've wurked the twice," he shouted to the
mate, who endeavoured to air his views on the best
methods of slinging the doors, "so ah ken weel, ye
darned argyfying hound, the precise fashion she lies."
" Aye, aye, have yer say, M'Pherson, but ye'll find
I'm richt when we shoot the terrawl," retorted the
mate, to the huge delight of the eight R.N. sailors I had
brought with me to assist.
The engineer added to the gaiety of nations by
poking his head up the engine-room hatch, and on
sighting the mass of wire, he exclaimed
" God sakes, that cat's cradle ! We'll no' be
hame the nicht," with which he retired again to the
On arrival at the scene of the disaster, we shot the
trawl, which, to the amazement of the whole crew,
behaved quite nicely.
M'Pherson even went so far as to say she was
" verra reesainable," and publicly taunted the mate by
saying, " Eh, M'Tavish, what for is the terrawl no' on
its side, eh, mon ? Who was richt the noo, eh, mon ?
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP 215
haven't I wurked her twice mysel' ? "
The mate was reduced to muttering dark hints that
it was " early day ta sing a sang aboot it."
Laboriously the /. Boot stemmed the tide, dragging
this monstrosity of steel and wire across the bottom.
Three times we sighted the trawl. That is to say, the
upper deck of the trawler was covered with snake-like
wires, which from moment to moment either sang like
violin strings, or else writhed in deadly coils.
The mate at the winch and the skipper on the bridge
cursed everybody. From the depths of the tiny little
cabin under the wheel-house, where I was enjoying two
most perfectly fried soles, I caught snatches of
" What for, M'Tavish, you loon, ha' ye no*
snatached yon wire ? "
" Na, na, na, na, yer . I didna say yon terripin
wire, yon wee one ; aye, that's the one."
" Why the do you no' heave on your winch,
mate ? "
" Losh, mon, canna ye see the terrawl is foul abaft
yer gallows ? "
" Haul awa, haul awa ! "
" Can ye see a tarpedo ? "
Voice from one of my sailors : " Only thing in this
'ere sanguinary net is a blinkin' crab. 'Ere, come 'ere,
'Erbert. Ow ! the swab's bit me with 'is claw."
" All hands haul on yer wires and make her a bittock
ship-shape syne we shoot the terrawl."
" Let go yer doors."
Splash, splash, and amidst parting execrations the
trawl went to the bottom.
Gradually the day grew old, and as the sun turned to
red and traced a track of blood across the calm sea, we
rocked gently to the wash of fast sweepers, day patrols,
destroyers, and all the evening traffic of a naval base
hurrying back to save daylight. Overhead two sea-
2l6 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
planes droned west, weary from a five hours' patrol
across the other side.
M'Pherson indicated the scene with the stem of his
" It's uncommon fine fer the season. There'll be fog
the morn it's a guid life the sea, when it's arl soft and
smooth like a bonnie bairn. I mind me on the west
There was a jerk that threw us against the standard
" The terrawl has catched," briefly announced
The sailors, who were singing songs round the galley
fire, rushed out and manned the wires. The winch
rattled and spat steam from many leaky joints. The
trawl held, and the /. Boot was drawn bodily over the
obstruction. The winch ground on, and the huge main
lifting wires stretched and vibrated with the strain.
When the ship had heeled to an angle of ten degrees,
the winch stopped :
" Will she do nae mair ? " demanded M'Pherson.
" She's doin' a' that's reasonable and mair," replied
" Is she open foo' ? "
" She'll bust her guts, M'Pherson," pleaded the mate.
" Open yon steam cock to the fu'. Yer a mutinous
The winch gave a convulsive heave, the trawl lifted
perhaps a foot, then I think its bottom fell out at the
same moment as both wires parted and, narrowly
missing several heads, flicked viciously over the side.
M'Pherson looked long at the disturbance in the
water, then turning to the engine-room voice-pipe
" Hame, Jock ; push her arl ye dare."
" I kenned weel that damned impetious fule M'Pher-
son would try her tu hard," said the mate to my petty
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP 217
officer, who was rather scandalized to hear the first
lieutenant of a ship criticizing his captain so openly.
As the /. Boot shuddered through the water in her
efforts to make 7 knots, M'Pherson said to me :
" Lef tenant, I ha' read in a buik that it was said
concairning that singular unfoortoonate monarch,
Charley the First, that in arl his unhappy and meeser-
able exeestence, nothing so became the cheel as the
manner in which he left it. Ah'm of the opeenion
mysel' yon terrawl is very similar."
But as was subsequently discovered, the terrawl had
died game, trying to lift a small steamer.
Besides the torpedo work and electrical and wireless
matters, it was our duty in the torpedo department to
prepare the mines and load them into the submarine
mine-layers. The mines were given a thorough test
before they went to the loading jetty in railway trucks,
where a crane lifted each mine and lowered it head
downwards into the empty tubes each side of the
The mine-layers were not out for more than three
days, as a rule, as their procedure was to go straight
over to the other side, insinuate themselves amongst
the minefields, lie on the bottom until a suitable
moment arrived, having regard to the tide, then rise,
lay the " eggs " and return as fast as possible.
I found all the work very interesting and the days
slipped by very quickly.
I soon felt I wanted to go on a trip in a submarine
and see what it was like, and it happened that B
in 31 had given me a standing invitation to go with
him whenever I cared, just before an order came for him
to do a short three-day patrol at a place called Xi on
the chart, which was a favourite haunt of U.-boats.
I obtained permission from the captain and went out
with 31 as a working guest.
2l8 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Whilst out in the boat I scribbled some notes as to
what went on, as has often been my amusement when
enjoying new experiences. I propose quoting these
notes, in the original, as illustrating the daily life and
ordinary routine in a submarine at sea.
NOTES ON A PATROL TRIP TO Xi IN 31
WRITTEN DURING THE TRIP
"June i, 1918, 8 a.m. Having victualled the ship
the day previous with all things necessary, including
white bread and fresh butter, which submariners alone
are entitled to these hard times, and also two tins
(large) of pineapple as my small share, we sailed in fine
weather from Parkestone Quay ; being on board
Lieutenant R. B in command, Lieutenant M.
B , hereinafter known as Maurice, as second hand,
Lieutenant G , R.N.R., in lieu of the proper navi-
gator, he being stricken down by Spanish flu the night
before, myself, some twenty-five sailors, also ten
" I created a small impression in the boat by saying
that I knew I was going to bring the boat luck, and
that we would see something. R. B sceptical, and
says he never sees anything on patrol.
" This part, though not without humour, is unfortun-
ately unprintable it concerns what Alphonse Daudet
calls La petite chambre au bout du corridor, which in a
submarine is a very remarkable place.
" An E-boat is divided into the fore-end, which
contains two tubes and four torpedoes ; from this com-
partment three steps lead down to the ward-room and
" On the port side of the boat are the electric switch-
boards, and on the starboard side are two bunks, a few
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP 2IQ
drawers, and a table which slides out from under a
cupboard, and this starboard side of the boat, screened
off by a curtain, is the ward-room.
" At the after end of this part of the boat, about half-
way between the stem and the stern, is a place called the
" control-room." Here are the periscopes, hydroplane
motors, etc., and the vertical ladder which leads up
through a hatch to the conning-tower : from which a
further ladder leads through another hatch to the
top of the conning-tower, which is the fore-bridge.
These two hatches are known as the ' upper and
" Proceeding aft down the centre of the boat, one
scrambles over two beam torpedo tubes, and leaving an
extraordinary little cubby hole on the right (the wire-
less cabinet) one enters a narrow passage between the
two Diesel engines. This leads to the after-end, which
contains the motors and the stern tube.
" Outside the boat are ' saddle tanks ' known as the
externals ; these give her buoyancy, and when the boat
is on the surface they are empty.
" Inside the pressure hull are various ' internal tanks'
used for trimming the boat in a longitudinal direction
and. for compensating for the loss in weight due to
fuel, lubricating oil, fresh water, etc.
" The electric batteries extend under the centre com-
partments before the engine-room.
" The methods used for shifting water from tank to
tank, or passing it overboard, are either by using a
pump, or else by compressed air.
" So much for the general arrangement of the
" We are now (9 a.m.) proceeding in a north-easterly
direction to a spot about 40 miles east of Orfordness.
" 3-3 P- m - Arrived at our patrol billet and found
extraordinarily high visibility buoys showing up 10 to
12 miles. Dived to attack one, being under a mis-
22O NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
apprehension. As soon as we had dived, examination
of the chart revealed its ' buoyishness.'
" At this juncture Colonel Sperry l went wrong and
tried to ' chuck his hand in.' Maurice and I played with
the old gentleman and got him more or less right one
of the hunting contacts had jammed over.
" Lunch at 12.30 consisted of a huge pie, a super-
excellent milk pudding, and pineapple chunks.
" At i p.m. we surfaced to communicate by wireless,
but we failed to get through.
" Dived at 1.15 p.m. and resumed periscope lookout.
" The procedure at the periscope is that one of us
takes his station at that instrument and very slowly
walks round in a circle, turning the periscope as he goes,
using one eye with the periscope in high power. Then
the operator puts the periscope to 30 degrees elevation
up, and sweeps rapidly round the sky for aeroplanes
this is called skyscraping then he puts the periscope
to horizontal and goes slowly round the sea, using the
other eye at the periscope. We each do this for two
hours, and it is a considerable strain on the eyes.
" After lunch, G went to the periscope, and
Maurice, B , and I slept.
" At 3.50 surfaced for wireless. The sea was wonder-
fully calm, and the day brilliantly fine. To the south-
eastward, the guns in France were rumbling very clearly.
We lengthened the spark right out and succeeded in
" At 4 p.m. dived ordered tea, and renewed peri-
" 10.30 p.m. At 6 p.m. I went to the periscope until
6.50 p.m., when we surfaced for wireless. B and I
had just got up on the bridge, when he noticed some-
thing suspicious to the south-west. We dived at once,
and proceeded at full speed under water to try and cut
1 Colonel Sperry the Sperry gyroscopic compass.
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP 221
" At the expiration of twenty minutes, nothing having
been seen through the periscope, we rose again and saw
nothing from the bridge.
B had just given the order to dive again, when a
Fritz surfaced about 4 miles south-west of us, off the
entrance to Xi channel. Simultaneously, to our
intense annoyance, destroyers and sweepers appeared
out of some haze to the north-east of us. The destroyers
at once rushed towards us, and we hastily shot up recog-
nition signals and challenged with a lamp.
" They were the leading ships of a ' beef trip ' coming
back from Holland, and their arrival was most inoppor-
tune, as Fritz at once dived. He was evidently
plunging about, waiting for the convoy.
" Having established our identity, we closed the con-
voy, which consisted of sweepers, eleven destroyers, and
nine merchant ships. We passed a floating mine en
route. We told the convoy there was a Fritz ahead of
them, and then we ambled to the north-east on the
surface, charging our batteries as we went along.
" The convoy made a beautiful picture, the merchant
ships steaming steadily along, and the destroyers shoot-
ing about round them, leaving broad wakes and rolling
washes across the glassy sea, in which the rays of the
setting sun were reflected blood-red.
" Between 9 and 10 we got through a massive dinner.
As musical entertainment we counted twenty-six depth
charge concussions to the southward of us, so evidently
Fritz is being well hotted up by the destroyers ;
evidently they located him or else he attacked the
" Never in my life have I eaten such enormous quan-
tities of food, or felt so fit at sea submarining in this
weather for a day or two is all right.
" I have arranged to help with the watch-keeping
from midnight until we dive, so I think I'll snatch an
hour's sleep. We intend dodging about between the
222 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
north and south minefields during the night, charging
batteries on one engine.
" July 2, 1918, 10.30. Went up at 12.30 a.m. last
night, or rather this morning, to relieve Maurice, not
having been able to sleep at all in the lower bunk.
" It was an absolutely still, calm night, with a sickle
moon just rising, more suited to love-making than war !
The sea was extremely phosphorescent, and the millions
of small bubbles and sparkling phosphorescence from
our saddle tanks gave the boat the appearance of a
diamond-brooch submarine moving in a sea of liquid fire.
To be practical I wonder if it shows up at a distance.
" The bridge is very small to keep w r atch on, as one
can walk only three steps in a fore and aft direction and
nothing at all sideways. There were three of us on the
bridge : B , who dozed in a chair, a lookout, and
" At 3 a.m. it began to dawn, and as we were making
smoke, we stopped and trimmed down ready for in-
stant diving, and thus lay waiting and watching, rolling
to a very gentle swell.
" At 4 a.m. it was quite daylight, so, having drawn a
blank, we dived to 70 feet and trimmed the boat for
I then turned in and slept like a log on the camp-bed
till 8.30, when I got up and relieved G at the peri-
scope, whilst Maurice had his breakfast. Then I had
mine, consisting of eggs and bacon (I daren't put down
the number of eggs). I had previously dreamt about
this dish, doubtless due to the fact that from 6 a.m.
onwards, eggs and bacon were being cooked continu-
ously within a foot of my head.
" II a.m. Surface for wireless very calm nothing
in sight. Tried to get through to Felixstowe no luck.
I cannot make out why, for radiation seems good ;
probably because we are working on that very con-
gested wave ' D.'
H.M.S. MAIDSTONE SUBMARINE DEPOT SHIP 223
' Telegraphist has a temperature of 102 F., which
does not help. Other cases of flu in the boat ;
Maurice sickening for it.
" Heard the guns in France a continuous im-
" 11.30 a.m. Plunged, and resumed periscope look-
out. I lay comatose till lunch, which I ate by myself ;
the others were at the war, a suspicious object having
been sighted at I p.m. We lost it again, whatever it
was, though we attacked it. Submerged for about an
" 4~5 p-m. At the periscope, walking round like a
squirrel in its cage bit of a lop on the sea.
" 5-3 P- m - Tea and the Shipwash Lightship in
sight. As there are mines in this direction, at six
o'clock we surfaced to ventilate the boat and get away
to the north-east on the surface.
" 6.30 p.m. Plunged I slept for an hour.
" 8 p.m. Heavy dinner ! We are now waiting for
dark to surface and start charging.
" 10 p.m. Surfaced.
" 10.4 p.m. Crash dived.
" 10.6 p.m. B has just told me that the reason
for the sudden manner in which he trod on my head as
I followed him up the conning-tower was that, as he
put his head out of the top, he saw the conning-tower
of a Fritz emerge from the sea about 800 yards away.
" It has been quite an exciting half an hour, as at the
moment of writing we have come up again and are now
proceeding on one engine, in the hope that he may
come up to charge. All tubes are ready, as we might
run into him at any moment, though it is too dark to
hope for much. I am about to go up on watch.
" ii p.m.-i a.m. On watch, altering course 16
points each hour ; sea force 3 to 4, but a clear night.
" At i a.m. was relieved by G , upon which I got
into a sleeping-bag and dozed till 6.30, when I relieved
224 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
Maurice at the periscope, the boat having dived at
dawn nothing in sight.
"At 8 a.m. had breakfast with B , after which
meal we surfaced at the eastern end of Xi Channel and
sighted our sweepers right ahead. Proceeded into War
Channel, and passing down same arrived at Parkestone
" B admitted that I had justified my claim to be
a joss-piece, 1 and says he has reserved me for a trip as
soon as he gets his new boat."
The boat (C2i) which relieved us on this job was
attacked by seaplanes just off the Ship wash. They
bombed her, and when she was unable to dive attacked
her with machine-gun fire.
Her captain, Lieutenant Bell, and several men were
shot down on the bridge. Bell fought to the last with
a Lewis gun.
51 hearing the disturbance also got mixed up in
The Germans claim to have sunk C2i ; this was not
correct, as she came into Harwich in tow of a destroyer
Joss-piece = mascot.
DAY followed day, and each brought its victory as the
summer drew on and became autumn. Like Walpole,
one had to read the papers carefully in case one should
miss a success.
I flew up to Yarmouth in October, going up in a big
Curtis boat, and coming back, after a two-days' visit to
the submarine depot there, in a D.H.g, in which we
were obliged to make a forced landing of a mildly ex-
citing nature near Martlesham. We broke our pro-
peller, which stuck into the ground. I thus achieved
my desire of going over, upon, and under the sea in
time of war.
On the gth of November I went out with J. G
in his L-boat to do her torpedo trials. They were par-
tially successful, as one unrehearsed incident took place.
J. G and myself were smoking together on the
bridge with the boat stopped, waiting for the first lieu-
tenant to report that he was ready to fire another
torpedo. I was looking at the bows of the boat, and
could hardly believe my eyes when I suddenly saw a
line of bubbles appear, and shoot away towards our
attendant destroyer, which was stopped about half a
mile away. One of the torpedoes had gone out of its
own accord, and was streaking towards the destroyer !
We waved flags, blew our whistles, signalled, and made
as much commotion as we could, but long before they
could do anything the torpedo bobbed up just ahead
of them, with a sort of " who'd have thought it " look
on its face.
226 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
On our return to harbour, J. G and myself pre-
pared to go and offer explanations (if any) to Captain
S concerning the contretemps. We found much ex-
citement on board, as a signal had just arrived saying
the Armistice had been signed. Under the circum-
stances, we found no explanations were wanted.
I at once saddled my horse, and in fulfilment of an
ancient vow rode up into the town and ordered a lot of
When I got back to the ship, I found the gloomiest
crowd of officers I've ever seen. The signal had been
cancelled ; it was a false alarm. Perhaps the saddest
soul was the fellow who had put up drinks all round,
on the strength of having won the war-sweep.
But the end was at hand ; and on the nth November,
1918, at the eleventh hour, I wrote :
" ii a.m. As I write these words it is over.
" I don't suppose I shall ever quite realize exactly
what I do feel, and what the fact that it is all over
" The past month has seen events rushing madly
along the old-age path of history. It has been almost
impossible to do more than follow with breathless ex-
citement the successive stages of the collapses of Bul-
garia, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary ; finally, at 5 a.m.
this morning, just as I awoke with a strange feeling of
unrest and remained wide-eyed till 7.30, it appears that
the Armistice was signed.
" 12.15 p.m. At 11.15 the lower deck was cleared,
and the whole depot gathered in Number 3 shed, where
the captain said :
" ' My lads, I can't make a speech, I'm too excited,
but I have a signal here to read to you : " Admiralty
to all ships. Armistice is signed ; hostilities are to be
suspended forthwith. All anti-submarine measures in
force till further notice. Submarines on surface not to
be attacked unless hostile intentions are obvious.
THE END 227
Armistice to be announced at 11.00. All general
methods of demonstrations to be permitted and en-
couraged, including bands."
' I now call for three cheers for the King, and one
more for the Submarine Service.'
" The whole building shook.
" The band then played the National Anthem, which
was sung with a fervour I've never heard equalled
" The band, escorted by hundreds of sailors and
officers, then emerged from the shed, and the piano,
surrounded by as many musicians as possible, was
placed on a trolley.
" By virtue of having started a band here, I was
pushed up on top of the piano, from which position I
conducted the band, as, surrounded by a surging, cheer-
ing mob, we played furiously whilst the whole band-
stand was slowly pulled along the railway lines through
" I got very excited, which as usual gave rise to a
misleading impression, as an E.R.A. in the crowd was
heard to say :
" ' He's all right, he is, but I shouldn't have liked to
have paid for all the drinks he's had ! '
" As a matter of fact, he would only have had to pay
for one ginger ale !
" Champagne (preserved for this day) is on tap in the
mess, every ship in the harbour is blowing off her siren,
and rockets and Very lights are shooting sky-high.
" A great day.
" To-night we dine the captain, with the band play-
ing in the smoking-room.
" Nov. 12, 1918. We had a great time last night, and
there are a lot of fat-heads about to-day.
" The band played d merveille, and after dinner we
danced and skylarked in the mess. I dressed B up
as a girl, and myself as a Rear-Admiral .
228 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
" From 8.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. every syren in the har-
bour screamed, every bell was rung, rockets, Very
lights, flares, and grenades went up in all directions
beneath the waving beams of many searchlights.
" Thus ended my second life, which had lasted from
4th August, 1914 to nth November, 1918. I hope my
third life will be of a different kind, for in the course of
my second life I have found someone to share the
third with me !
" This book should really end here, but just as I
found it suitable to write a chapter on the prelude to
the war, so it seems suitable to devote a few words to
the aftermath of the war, which in my case has meant
the surrender of the U.-boats and the subsequent work
in connection with them."
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER
THE 2oth November, 1918, will ever rank as an anniver-
sary without precedent in the history of sea warfare.
For upon that date the first instalment of the German
submarines surrendered to the British Navy in general,
and to the British Submarine Service in particular.
The surrender of these first ships of the German Navy
had a double interest, firstly, in that, preceding as it
did by twenty-four hours the surrender of the surface
craft to the Grand Fleet, it was a test case as to the
willingness of the German Navy to submit to this un-
precedented humiliation ; and, secondly, there was
something altogether incredible in the idea that sub-
marines would arrive at a position on the sea and
surrender. Most of us felt that a surface ship might
possibly be expected to surrender ; but we found it
extraordinarily hard to imagine that very shy bird
Fritz walking into the cage.
It was decided that Harwich should be the port of
surrender, and the honour of receiving these surrenders
was reserved for the officers and men of the British
That they have fully earned such an honour is testi-
fied by the fact that our Submarine Service has the
melancholy privilege of possessing a higher percentage
of casualties than any other branch of the three services.
I have said this once, but I repeat it, lest one forgets.
In the fullness of time the records will show what was
gained for the Empire in exchange for the long list of
boats that never came back. Harwich, or to be ac-
230 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
curate, Parkeston Quay, had been the home of the 8th
and gth flotillas since August 1914. It was from here
that two boats went into the Bight on patrol on 6th
August, 1914 at 2 a.m., and on the night of the Armistice
the depot had her boats on the observation billets
across the other side. The watch had been kept for
four years and a hundred days.
In order that all might share the " Fun of the Fair,"
and also in order to obtain the necessary personnel,
submarine officers and men gathered to the Maidstone
at Parkeston Quay from all parts of England. The
messes in the depot ships were packed, and the night
of the igth was a merry one, for it is questionable if
there had ever been so many submarine officers gathered
together in one place before ; and the cause of the
gathering was enough to make the dumb sing.
In the evening a train-load of reporters and cinemato-
graph and camera kings descended on Harwich. The
commander of the depot strove manfully to put a
gallon into a pint pot, and we believe that a bed for the
lady reporter was found on the billiard-table.
The start was at 7 a.m., at which hour the boarding
parties under Captain S , the reporters, and camp
followers, embarked on two destroyers, the Melampus
and Firedrake. Both these ships had met Fritz before
during the war, with in each case disastrous results
The Harwich forces of light cruisers and destroyers
left on the evening of the I9th to meet the Huns and
escort them to the place of surrender, which was at the
southern end of the Sledway, or about seven miles east-
north-east of Felixstowe. The appointed hour was
10 a.m., and a thick fog hung over the water as the two
destroyers cautiously felt their way down harbour ; but
once through the boom defences it cleared somewhat,
and we were at the rendezvous by 9.30 a.m. On the
way out we passed close to the Cork Lightship ; her
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 23!
occupants were in great spirits, and one man from the
rigging bellowed out :
" Out you go, you rascals, and bring the s
in " : an exhortation which was seconded by cheers
from the lightship's crew.
The whole time one had to pinch oneself to make
sure that one was really out there to collect U.-boats
and that the whole thing was not a dream. Suddenly
a " British Zepp." droned out of the mist, circled round
and vanished again to the northward.
At 9.55 a hull appeared, which resolved itself into the
Danae, one of the latest light cruisers. Close behind
her, and looking sadly in need of a coat of paint, came
a white transport. She was flanked on either side by
destroyers. This seemed promising, but where were
the Fritzes ? A gap of half a mile, and then a smaller
transport ambled out of the fog more British de-
stroyers a " Blimp " overhead, then a startled voice
broke the silence with
" By Jove : there's a ruddy Fritz."
There was a rush to the port side of the Firedrake,
which heeled over like a paddle steamer full of tourists
at a naval review. From the north, a long line of a
hull with a dome-shaped conning-tower in the centre
slid across the water. No boat built in a British yard
ever looked like that the Huns had come. She was
followed by five others in straggling order. One was a
large new vessel (U.I35) elaborately camouflaged and
mounting a 6-inch gun forward.
It is impossible to describe in words the feelings of
the officers and men who witnessed this amazing sight.
Try and imagine what you would feel like if you were
told to go to Piccadilly at 10 a.m. and see twenty man-
eating tigers walk up from Hyde Park Corner and lie
down in front of the Ritz to let you cut their tails off
and put their leads on and it really was so. Add to
these impressions the fact that many of those present
232 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
had been hunting Fritz for over four years, in which
period a man who could boast, " I have seen six Fritzes
and heard them four times on my hydrophones," was
accounted favoured by the gods, and you may get an
insight into what British crews felt.
More boats drifted out of the fog and anchored under
the guns of the British destroyers. Motor-launches
came alongside the Firedrake and Melampus, to take
our crews over to the Huns. Each party consisted of
two or three officers and about 15 men.
Actually I was with the party that boarded U.go,
and as the proceedings in each case were very similar,
I shall describe what happened here.
The four officers composing our party were armed,
and it may safely be said that we were prepared for any
eventuality except that which actually took place.
The Hun submarine service is remarkable in many
respects. It has a record of criminal brutality standing
against it unequalled in the history of war.
It has been expanded from 20 to 30 boats to about
140 plus 160 or 200 (lost), in the space of four years.
During this period it has seriously troubled the
British Empire no mean feat. At the end of this
period it has submitted to humiliation unparalleled in
history. A strange record.
I have said that the British parties were prepared for
every eventuality save one. We were not prepared to
find the Huns behaving for once as gentlemen. It is
right to record that during those wonderful days their
behaviour has been correct in every respect. It may
be through fear of the consequences attending any
peevishness, it may be for some ulterior motive, that
this has been so. I state the fact. In nearly every
case the German officer has seemed genuinely anxious
to assist in every way possible, and give as much in-
formation concerning the working of the boat as was
feasible in the time at his disposal.
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 233
One officer voiced the feelings of many when, as we
discussed the events of the day that evening, he re-
marked, " My Hun might have been trying to sell me
the boat, the blighter tried to be so obliging."
To return to the story. We left the Firedrake in a
motor-launch and went alongside a fair-sized Hun
mounting two guns, one each side of the conning-tower.
K (our senior officer) jumped on board, followed
by the Engineer Commander, an Engineer Lieutenant-
Commander, and myself. The two engineer officers
had come out to try and pick up as much as they could
about the Hun Diesel engines during the trip in.
We were received by the German captain together
with his torpedo officer and engineer.
They saluted us, which salutes were returned.
" Do you speak English ? " said K .
" Yes, a little," replied the Hun.
" Give me your papers."
The German then produced a list of his crew and the
signed terms of surrender, which he translated into
English. These terms were as follows :
(1) The boat was to be in an efficient condition, with
periscopes, main motors, Diesel engines, and
auxiliary engines in good working order.
(2) She was to be in surface trim, with all diving
(3) Her torpedoes were to be on board, without their
war-heads, and the torpedoes were to be clear
of the tubes.
(4) Her wireless was to be complete.
(5) There were to be no explosives on board.
(6) There were to be no booby traps or infernal
machines on board.
This last declaration rather stuck in his throat ; he
repeated the words " no hell engines " with great con-
viction. This captain was a well-fed-looking individual
with quite a pleasant appearance, and he was wearing
234 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
the Iron Cross of the first class. He had apparently
sunk much tonnage in another boat, but had done only
one trip in U.QO. Curiously enough, his old boat was
next ahead of us going up harbour.
K then informed him that he would give him
instructions where to go, but that otherwise the Ger-
man crew would work the boat under the supervision
of our people. This surprised the Hun, who showed us
his orders, which stated that he was to hand the boat
over to us and then leave at once for the transport.
His subordinates urged him to protest, but he was too
sensible and at once agreed to do whatever we ordered.
The German crew were clustered round the after-gun,
taking a detached interest in the proceedings.
Our own men, in submarine rig of white sweaters,
blue trousers, white stockings, and sea-boots, looked
very smart, fallen in right aft. The formalities having
been concluded, we made a rapid tour of the boat and
then went on to the bridge.
Various things about the boat were defective, the
German explaining that he had only just returned from
a thirty-five-day trip and was about to refit when
ordered to bring her over. He also stated that the
mutineers at Kiel had descended into the boat and
looted a good deal of gear. Many of the captains spoke
with much bitterness of this looting by the big ship
crews, which seems to have been pretty general.
Getting under way on the Diesels, we proceeded
towards Harwich, the white ensign being run up as the
anchor left the ground.
A tragi-comic incident took place at this stage, for
as the white ensign and final sign of surrender was dis-
played to the world, the torpedo and engineer officers
shifted into plain clothes of a peculiarly German type.
Each donned a long blue overcoat and a green felt hat ;
it needed only the feathers in the latter to complete the
picture of the two German tourists visiting Harwich for
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 235
the first time. At first I thought this change of garb
indicated that a touch of Prussianism was imminent
and that they were going to be surly, but they still
appeared to consider themselves as officers of the boat,
moving about directing operations amongst the crew
when any work had to be done.
We proceeded into Harwich and up to the head of
the harbour, past Parkeston Quay, to what the re-
porters now say we call " U.-boat Avenue." The ships
in harbour were crowded with spectators, but a com-
plete silence was preserved which was more impressive
than cheers. On arrival at our buoy the German
manoeuvred his late command very skilfully on the oil
engines, which in German boats are made reversible,
whereas in British boats the electric motors are in-
variably used for manoeuvring purposes.
As soon as we had secured to the buoy, an operation
which in every case the Germans had to do for them-
selves, the German was instructed to take us round the
boat in a more detailed manner. This he did ; and
auxiliary machinery was started, periscopes raised and
lowered, etc. etc.
At 4 p.m. a motor-launch came alongside and the
Germans were ordered to gather up their personal be-
longings and get into her. The captain, without a sign
of that emotion which he must have felt, took a last
look at his boat and saluted. We returned his salute,
he bowed, and then joined his crew in the motor-launch,
which took them to the destroyer in which they made
passage to the transport outside.
Similar scenes were being enacted at the other buoys,
and as the sun sank in a splendour of crimson and gold,
the long line of the first twenty U.-boats, harmlessly
swinging round their buoys and reflecting the last rays
of the sun from their conning-towers, made a picture
236 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
which will remain for ever in the minds of those who
were fortunate enough to witness the scene.
Next day, nineteen more boats were added to the line.
One sank or was scuttled on the way over. The super-
crock of the German Submarine Service came over on
this day, U.24. She was their instructional sub-
marine ; her crew were very sea-sick, very unhappy,
nothing worked, and she struggled exceedingly to get
On the third day, twenty-one came over, one more to
make up for the lost lamb. On this day the weather
changed from the foggy calmness of the preceding days
to a day of tumbling seas, which made boarding outside
a dangerous operation.
Whilst waiting for the Huns we had the misfortune to
lose a man overboard from one of the tenders ; wearing
sea-boots, he sank after a gallant struggle before he
could be reached.
The U.-boats were boarded inside the gate, opposite
On their way in, one of our destroyers sank a mine,
which blew up when it was hit, about 80 yards in front of
the leading submarine . The crews of the next five boats
bolted up on deck like rabbits on hearing the explosion.
On this day my party boarded a large U.ioo class,
fitted as a mine-layer. She carried about thirty-six
mines in a mining-room aft, and she laid her eggs
through two tunnels right aft. She was commanded
by a reserve officer, who had sailed a great deal from
Southampton before the war.
We had rather a long wait before they were taken off,
and in the course of the somewhat lengthy conversa-
tion, which is unavoidable when one is trying to find
out in an hour how to work a strange submarine, the
captain of this boat stated that he had been Wagen-
fuhrer's first lieutenant, and that he had left the boat
two trips before she was lost.
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 237
This reserve officer stated that some eight months
after the sinking of the Lusitania, he and Wagenfiihrer
had been within 400 yards of the Mauretania with all
tubes ready and trained on her, but owing to the critical
state of the political situation between the United
States and Germany, they had not fired. On their
return to Germany they had received an autographed
letter from the Kaiser commending them for their dis-
He also stated that all the reservist officers in the
German Navy had stated at the beginning of submarine
warfare that it was ridiculous to imagine that England
could be starved out in six months, or that her mer-
chant seamen could be terrorized, as they being reserve
officers had worked with and knew the British Merchant
Service. He added, " When you dig your teeth in, you
hold . In my mess I was called traitor when I say that . ' '
Amongst other incidents was a case in which two
Huns refused to leave their submarine and go back to
Germany, not for any heroic reason, but because they
wished to remain in England and receive " work and
The reservist officer whom I have mentioned felt that
his nationality was going to make things difficult for
him in the future. He kept on asking whereabouts
in the world he might be able to get a job in the
Merchant Service. He finally said :
" Do you think if I went to China or Japan I could
find a job for a German ? " He was told it was un-
As he left the boat he saluted and delivered himself
of this little speech :
" For the future all is uncertain, thank God I am not
On Saturday, 23rd November, there was a respite
from the pleasant task of collecting the U.-boats, but on
Sunday the business was very brisk. Twenty-eight
238 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
boats underwent the great humiliation . Amongst these
were two or three flying the Imperial ensign.
In the previous batches, most of them had come over
without flags, though some of them had red flags on
board. Whenever a German ensign could be found it
was hoisted inferior to the white ensign. In one or two
cases the Huns protested against this, but needless to
say without any success.
Whenever one felt any undue sympathy for these
individuals and the naval officer who has not been
able to get into personal contact with the Hun is liable
to feel sorry for men whom we once thought worthy
members of the fellowship of the sea one only had to
remember the number of women and children these men
had murdered, one only had to imagine how we
should have been treated if we had been obliged to take
a British ship into Kiel. One's imagination in this
respect was assisted by the palpable relief of all the
Huns on finding that they were not going anywhere
near the shore. One Hun on being told to get his en-
sign up, summed up the situation with the remark :
" All right, sir, I put up my flag ; you have the power."
Amongst the twenty-eight that came across on U.-
boat Sunday were four Deutschland class of commercial
submarines, including the name vessel of the class.
They look somewhat like a floating bridge across a
A sailor in the Firedrake remarked on seeing them
for the first time " Here, Bill, here comes the Elephant
The captain of my submarine, which was a small
brand-new mine-layer, indicated one of the floating
haystacks with his glasses, and when I asked him his
opinion of them tersely remarked : As submarines,
This captain was again a reservist officer and spoke
fluent English. He appeared to know the entrance to
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 239
Harwich harbour very well. I remarked on this, and
he volunteered this statement as to his career in the war.
He said that on the outbreak of war he had joined the
Dresden, and in her he had fought at Coronel and at the
Falkland Islands. At the final destruction of the
Dresden at Robinson Crusoe Island he had been in-
terned in Chili, from whence he had escaped to England,
presumably with a forged passport.
He then startled me by saying, with a smile, that he
had lived for four weeks in England, " visiting my
relatives, and moving openly," and that finally, with-
out " great difficulty," he had got over to Germany and
joined the submarine service. From certain other
evidence, I am inclined to think he was speaking the
Another captain who came over in this batch stated
that he had landed twice in the early days of the war on
islands in the Orkneys and made off with a sheep.
Perhaps this piece of news will clear up some long-
standing mystery in the Northern Isles.
One of the boats which comprised the twenty-eight
was 11.139 a big cruiser with two 5-9 guns, one each
side of the conning-tower; she also carried a range finder.
This boat belonged to von Arnauld de la Periere,
the most successful and famous of all U.-boat captains.
A. de la Periere was in command of the German
fishery gunboat on the east coast of England before
the war, and was well known to many British naval
officers. His fame in the German Navy is almost
I believe nothing is known to his discredit, that is to
say, nothing exceptionally beastly, and he is known to
have saved life on certain occasions, and he has a
reputation of being a gentleman. He first made his
name in a U.-boat (35, I think, was its number) in the
Mediterranean. He worked on original lines, making
little use of his torpedoes, but specializing with his guns,
240 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
for which he had picked gun-layers from the High Seas
When the U.I39 arrived here on Sunday, she had a
periscope missing and part of her bridge smashed in ;
this damage was the result of an encounter with a
steamer which she had torpedoed, but the steamer in her
dying struggles had managed partly to sit on the
The first lieutenant and four officers brought her
over ; he said that von Arnauld de la Periere was too
sad to come. All the officers and crew of this boat were
evidently very proud of having served with their cap-
tain, and the discipline and esprit de corps were notice-
ably good. The interior of the boat was very nicely
finished as far as the officers' quarters were concerned,
and evidently von Arnauld had plenty of " pull " in the
From one of the Deutschland class, two American
naval officers emerged. They had been through a
On 30 th September they were torpedoed in the
Ticonderoga at a spot about half-way across the
Atlantic. They had got away on a raft, and, being
officers, the Huns had picked them up. They had
spent some 40 days in the submarine, during which
period they had experienced the unpleasant sensation
of being depth-charged by some British patrols.
They had also seen the crew of a Norwegian sailing-
ship turned adrift in their boats 1,300 miles from land.
Consider what this means in the Atlantic in October.
When these officers got back to Kiel the Armistice
was just being prepared, and eventually they were told
that they could go back to England in a submarine if
they wished to. They jumped at the chance, and were
told to go in the same boat that had picked them up.
The crew of this boat then sat down and held a meeting
as to whether they should give them a passage or not.
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 24!
On a vote being taken, it was seen that the majority
was for taking them, so they came across. The
opinion of these Americans was that if a man can stand
45 days in a German submarine under war conditions
he can stand anything ; and, looking over the boats, I
am inclined to think they are right.
On Wednesday the 27th a batch of twenty-seven
boats came over.
Two notorious boats were amongst them. One was
the U.Q. This boat sank the Hogue, Aboukir, and
Cressy, her commander being Otto Weddigen ; she is
also thought to have sunk the Hermes. Otto Weddigen
was rammed and sunk by the Dreadnought when he
attacked the Grand Fleet in 11.29.
The other boat has a criminal record. This boat's
number is U-55 ; she is suspected of having special-
ized in hospital ships. As to her commander's name,
more may be heard of him anon.
The U-9 had a large Iron Cross painted on her
bows, as the boat was decorated with this honour after
Another boat has an evil-looking eye on her bow, and
another has a prawn on her conning-tower. These
marks are quite in accordance with the best practice of
Chinese pirates, whose junks are decorated in this
As regards the officers who have come over with the
submarines, they have seemed to be of three types.
Few of the proper captains of the big boats have come
across, and when these have turned up they have
appeared to feel their position keenly, and have shifted
into plain clothes as soon as possible. One did this
with the remark that they had all sworn an oath never
again to wear a uniform which had been disgraced by
the mutiny in the High Seas Fleet.
When the senior captains did not come across, their
boats were usually brought over by their first lieuten-
242 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
ants, mere boys, in some cases rather nervous boys ;
they were reported generally as being " willing to feed
out of one's hand."
The other class of officer was usually found in the
smaller boats. These vessels were commanded by
" reserve " officers, elderly men who had been in the
German merchant service in pre-war days. These
officers did not appear to feel the humiliation as keenly
as the regular officers, and their chief anxiety seemed to
be to try and be friendly and find out whereabouts in
the world they would be able to get a job when the war
One of these officers said that the feeling over this
war would last twenty-five years. He was told that
the reason for this was the beastly manner in which the
Germans had fought the war.
He said that he did not believe in all the reports of
He was then asked why it was that all the world
hated the Germans ? He looked away for a moment,
and then said, " If I ask myself that question once, I
ask it a hundred times a day."
A delightful sidelight on the absolute inability of the
Hun to appreciate psychology.
As to the crews, they seemed very sharply divided
into revolutionaries and royalists.
In some boats nothing could be noticed that would
lead one to suppose that discipline was not perfect.
In other boats, discipline was good, but the captains
had been elected by the crews and held commissions
signed by the Sailors' and Soldiers' Committee.
Again, in other boats the crews paid little attention
to the orders of their officers, except when it was obvious
that the order would be backed up by the British
In one case, as an officer was scrambling up the side
of the transport, his crew in the destroyer shouted to
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 243
some Germans in the transport and, pointing to their
officer, drew their fingers across their throats and made
threatening remarks about him.
In about three cases the crews showed a certain
amount of morale by giving three cheers for their boats
as they were taken away. One boat's crew hung a
wreath of evergreens on their boat before they left her.
In our destroyers they tried hard to get some soap,
of which there seems to be a great shortage in the
A few remarks as to the boats may be of interest.
The biggest are the U.I39 class. These are the
cruiser submarines. They are nearly 300 feet long, and
carry two big guns of 5 '9-inch size.
The accommodation for the officers is good, and
resembles three cabins and a saloon in a sleeping-car.
The accommodation for the crew, who number about
seventy, is not good.
These craft represent the latest development in
ocean-going, commerce-destroying submarines, and
rely chiefly on their guns, though they carry torpedoes
as well. Not many of these formidable craft had been
completed when the German Navy collapsed.
We next have four Deutschland class ; originally
designed as commercial vessels to carry about 1,000 tons
of cargo, their raison d'etre disappeared with the entry
of the United States into the war. These craft were
then converted into cruisers, and armed with three
torpedo tubes, two 5-9 guns, and mines. These last
were laid by the primitive method of rolling them over
As they are compromises, they have many dis-
advantages ; they are slow on the surface, having
apparently two speeds, i.e. full speed and stop. Full
speed is about 9 knots. They were chiefly used for
long-distance work off the coasts of North and South
America, as they were quite capable of a three months'
244 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
cruise. This may have been very trying for the crew,
though it must be remembered that when operating in
the tropics and on the ocean trade routes she would
drift about on the surface waiting for shipping, and her
crew, as shown by the wooden seats on the upper deck,
would laze away the time in the fresh air.
The next class is the U.J-3O class. Most of these are
mine-layers intended to lay mines overseas, as, for
example, off Gibraltar, and then prey on the trade in
Slightly smaller than these, but still large boats, are
the U.o/) class. This is the standard ocean-going
submarine which worked off the Spanish coast, up the
west coast of Ireland, and in the Irish Sea. The length
of their trips used to be about three to six weeks.
Their armament consists of two 4-inch guns and six
torpedo tubes, four forward and two in the stern. A
large number of this type of craft are in the cage,
but probably a larger number are at the bottom of
We have also a considerable number of U.B. boats
in store ; these, though a separate type, are practically
a smaller edition of the standard U. They battened on
trade up the east coast of England and in the English
Channel, after they had negotiated the Dover barrage,
which towards the end of the war was becoming a very
unpopular institution in the German Submarine
The next class are the U.C. boats, of which a singu-
larly complete collection of the latest editions is on
view. These boats are small mine-layers, with twelve
to sixteen mines held in vertical tubes which fill in the
forepart of the boat. They have also got a small gun
and three torpedo tubes, one aft, and two outside the
boat on the side of the upper deck. Their work was to
attack traffic in the North Sea and lay mines off the
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 245
The collection is completed by a miscellaneous crowd
of antique pre-war U. -boats and similar veterans.
As far as is known at the moment of writing, the
bulk of the U.-boat navy is now in the fold, though
there remain perhaps twenty odd craft scattered about
in neutral ports, including some over in the German
harbours which are not capable of coming over. It
thus appears that we must have sunk rather more than
we thought, or, to be correct, than we officially claimed,
as the Navy was always convinced that the casualty
list stood at a higher figure than the number of proved
Speaking generally, the outstanding feature of all the
boats is their filthy condition. How much of this is
normal and how much is due to present conditions in
the German Fleet, it is difficult to say. I personally
find it quite hard to go round some of the boats without
being almost physically sick. The condition of these
boats after a six weeks' trip, with washing water at a
premium, must have been very horrid.
As regards technical fittings, the periscopes, as was
expected, are excellent. The Hun has always been a
cunning man at making optical instruments. The
Diesel engines are also expected to prove very good.
In other respects there is much of purely technical
interest for our people to study.
It is obvious from many points of view that the
German Submarine Service was organized on different
lines from our own.
For example, in a U.-boat the captain is there to
command the boat from the disciplinary point of view
and to make the attack ; his technical knowledge may
be very poor. He merely said, " Dive the boat," and
if anything went wrong it is probable that he could not
correct the mistake. All the electrical machinery and
the trimming of the boat was done by the engineer
officer of the boat.
246 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
A lot of their gear is also inaccessible, which in a
British boat would have to be accessible, because the
crew would be expected to repair it themselves if it
The German idea is apparently based on the principle
that gear is placed in a boat and expected to remain
efficient for a certain definite time, at the end of which
period it is removed by the dockyard and fresh stuff
One of the most curious impressions that one gets on
going round a boat is due to the manner in which the
crews walked out of them leaving bedding, books,
letters, knives, spoons, forks, china, provisions, and a
mass of small personal gear, all horribly dirty. We had
expected to find the boats more or less stripped of their
upholstery, and that each boat would be simply a hull
with machinery in it. As it is the boats look as if some
sudden panic had stricken their crews and they had
vanished from the boat at five minutes' notice.
For the moment these 114 boats l lie on the surface
of an English river, a monument to the British Navy
and a warning to any who would challenge our sea-
power. The river Stour has carried sea-raiders in the
past, when the Danes and the Angles and the Saxons
from the Jutland coast and the mouths of the German
rivers, came across and sailed up the estuaries of
England, pillaging, burning, sacking, and destroying
" all that had breath."
After an interval of one thousand years this sluggish
old river once more has between her banks, ships from
the Elbe estuary and the bordering coasts, which in the
last four years have laid a trail of blood across the seas.
In a short time the representatives of our Allies will
come here and take away some of the boats ; the others
will proceed round the ports of Great Britain, that our
people, and especially our Merchant Service, to whom
1 Since increased (3-3-19).
THE U.-BOAT SURRENDER 247
all honour is due, may survey the result of the German
Empire's bold bid for the supremacy of the Seven
As to their ultimate disposal, nothing is settled
beyond one thing, and that is, that they will not return
whence they came.
In concluding these brief and somewhat disconnected
impressions of this great event, I would like to quote
a telegram which has been sent to Captain S of
this depot :
" I wish to convey to you, and to all ranks and
ratings under your command, my most sincere con-
gratulations on the splendid result which has been
achieved by their constant watchfulness, skill, and
bravery, and on the exemplary standard which they
have set in the legitimate use of submarine warfare.
It is the last line of the above message that pleases
the British Submarine Service most of all.
Postscript. Eight more boats came in a few days
later, including a boat with one engine, and U-3, an
ancient petrol-driven craft.
THE HORRORS OF PEACE 1
" IF this is Peace give me War ! " Strange as this
may sound, I have heard quite a number of officers
make the remark as they enter the mess and occupy
a position in front of the ward-room stove hallowed
spot from which either to voice a grievance or burn
the seat of one's trousers. It is the U. -boats that are
the root of all troubles at present. When they go it
will be something else, for a " grouse " is essential ;
but for the moment the U.-boats form an obvious peg
on which to hang all our moans.
When the great surrender was completed and we
got our breath back, we had miles of U.-boats lying up
the river which had to be looked after, for thirty-six
were to go round the British Isles, and the Americans
were to take some and the French were to have others,
and the Italians and the Japanese were each to have
samples, so the boats had to be kept in order.
Now a submarine is like a baby, in that it cannot
be left to look after itself.
The battery has to be kept charged, and the boat has
to be kept free of water which leaks into her. Last,
but not least, a couple of army corps of souvenir
hunters had to be kept off the grass. Very ingenious
gentlemen let us not inquire as to whether the major-
ity were in uniform or not who floated round the
U.-boat trot in every kind of craft from a paddle-
steamer to a duck punt. All the work that these
1 January, 1919.
THE HORRORS OF PEACE 249
various jobs entailed has been done by the submarine
officers here, and it has kept us quite busy.
A lugubrious signal comes down from the submarine
officer who is acting as Commodore Manningtree
(Senior Naval Officer in charge of U.-boats).
The signal runs :
" U.C.gS is sinking fast, U.ioi has taken a big
angle, please send assistance."
Lieutenant Georgie G , who has calculated on an
evening off, finds himself booming up the river in his
own E-boat, in order to perform the menial task of
pumping out U.C. 98.
On arrival there he endeavours to do it with the
U.C. boat's pump, but being an indifferent German
scholar he spends half an hour searching for the requisite
switch. Having found it at last, he switches on cur-
rent, and the pump motor goes up in a sheet of flame
it is not in repair.
Laboriously he performs the job with his own
Whilst wandering round the U.C. boat he hears a
ticking noise in the wireless cabinet. Is it possible ?
Can the Huns have left a clock behind ? Stranger
still, can the fellow who brought her in have omitted
to take it away for safe custody ?
Georgie starts a minute search, half an hour passes,
still that ticking noise. Awful thought ! D ! it is
his own Ingersoll !
There was one day during which I was working in
the U.-boats, when an incident occurred which hardly
comes under the heading of this chapter. I would
even propose putting it in a separate paragraph en-
titled the " Joys of Peace." I was in U.I3Q, which was
being handed over to the French, and I was standing
at the forward end of the engine-room, not looking my
best, I fear, unless visible evidence of honest toil on
clothes and hands is an improvement to the appearance,
250 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
when I was amazed to see a feminine and delightful
ankle descend from above into my field of vision.
Vague parallels to the angels of Mons floated through
my mind, and I was debating whether to advance and
grasp this vision before I woke up, when, after waving
in the air, the foot found the next rung of a vertical
ladder, and like the unveiling of a statue a charming
lady arrived on the engine-room floor-plates.
Inwardly deploring my general appearance, I ad-
vanced " one " as the gunnery drill book says, and
made polite conversation. But the hatch was to
provide further startling surprises, as the next arrival
turned out to be the First Sea Lord ; the sight of a full
admiral effectively reminding me of my exact position
in the Navy List.
The lady was the Duchess of , who, if I may be
allowed to say so, astonished and almost (but not
quite) confounded me with technical inquiries anent
German Diesel engines. Should these lines ever meet
her eye, I wish her to know that I subsequently dis-
covered that my guess as to the horse-power of the port
engine was correct.
We soon got to know the boats fairly well, but all the
people who were taking them away, both our own and
our Allies, had to have them explained to them as
much as possible.
It is difficult to explain to a Japanese officer how
something works, when you are a little uncertain your-
self, and his English is limited to " Tank you " and
" Ah, yes," whilst the nearest to an oriental language
you know is Maltese.
However, it is being done.
And the manner in which it was done is something
like this :
Japanese Officer. " How motah work tank you ? "
Myself. 1 ' Well, you see this . . ."
THE HORRORS OF PEACE 251
/. 0." Tank you."
M. " Well, you see this . . ."
/. 0. " Ah yes, tank you, how motah ..."
M. " This s\vitch must ..."
/. 0.~" No ? "
M. " Yes, this switch must ..."
/. 0. " Tank you."
M. " This switch UP . . . savee ? . . . comme
/. O. " AAAAAAH Tank you, tank you, tank ..."
M." Oh, that's not all."
/. O. " Ah yes . . . please . . . tank you ? "
M. " This one must be . . ."
/. O. " No onerstand."
M. " Yes, yes, half a mo', you see . . ."
/. 0." Tank you."
M . " Thank you."
/. 0." No more ? "
M. " Yes, yes."
/. 0." Tank you."
M. " Look ... I start motors."
/. O. " AH yes. Tank you . . . very O-blige,
M. " Come on board and have something ? "
/. 0." AH yes."
M . " Savee ? like saki."
/. 0. (Smiles.) " Ah yes, I onerstand tank you."
With a French officer I had a somewhat different
French Officer. " Tonnerrrrre, mon bateau a ete"
pille. She eez destmcted I say."
Myself. " Ah, les allemands ont fait cela, ce n'est
F. 0. " Mais bien sur, ce n'est pas les anglais, je
comprends c'est les boches qui ont fait tout ce debris.
Ah ! comme je de"teste ces , , .
252 NORTH SEA DIARY, 1914-1918
M. " Oui, les , , bodies."
F. 0. " Mais, monsieur parle fran9ais avec facilite."
M . " Oui, ma mere parle tres bien."
F. 0. " Ha, ha ! c'est rigolo cela, madame votre
mere ne vous a pas appris toute votre vocabulaire,
M. " Quelques mots j'ai appris en ecole c'est vrai."
F. 0. " Dites-moi comment dites-vous en anglais
' Ces bodies ' ? "
M." Those Huns."
F. 0. (Hailing his first lieutenant.) " He", Gaston,
viens voir ce que ' zoze 'Uns ' ont fait dans notre
We have heard that our indefatigable representatives
over in Germany have discovered another 170 U.-boats,
and they are all coming here !
It is a hard life is the sailor's ! However, to-night we
have a rehearsal of our Jazz band, which will enable us
to forget the war, I mean the Armistice.
The instruments are :
(a) A piano.
(b) A water-can, hit with a hammer.
(c) A fog-horn.
(d) Fire-main branch pipes as horns (they require
(e) Copper lamp-shades with a poker (as rattles).
(/) Tin whistles.
(g) Pillar-box, made out of a collision-head, hit with
a soup ladle.
(h) lo-lb. coffee-tin, worked with forks.
(i) Ash trays as cymbals
(j) Small incidentals.
(k) Everyone singing.
(/) Conductor, with Irish blackthorn.
It makes a considerable noise, and on this harmonious
note I propose concluding this book.